Coping as a Caregiver to a Wounded Warrior

Usually my blog is reserved for happy posts about baking, crafting and travel.  Today, I’m taking a moment to talk about something more serious… the impact a decade of war has had on me.

April 2007 - Moments before Dave's 1st deployment
April 2007 – Moments before Dave’s 1st deployment

Living with a Wounded Warrior who suffers from combat related PTSD, major depressive disorder, and chronic pain is no walk in the park. In fact, it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

I try my hardest to make things look like everything is fine… to make it seem from the outside that I’m handling it all and that my husband is doing better. However, that is all a lie.

Nothing is fine.

2013 - A few days before Dave's 3rd deployment
2013 – A few days before Dave’s 3rd deployment

I lost my husband 2 years ago (read about that here)… shortly after he returned from his third combat tour in the middle east. What I mean by lost is that he is no longer the man I married. What 8 years of war stripped out of him is irreplaceable. Now, only a shadow of the kind, caring, funny man I once adored remains.  I don’t blame my husband for how he is today… I know it is not his fault.  However I am struggling with how to deal with the person he has become.

Because of his PTSD, the man I live with now thinks only of himself and never goes out of his way to even do the basic duties of a husband and father.   It’s a symptom of his illness.  For example, when Dave first arrived in the USA and secured us housing he was to also get us beds with bedding along with food.  When we arrived after 18 hours of travel from Germany, Dave did not have a bed for Matty and none of us had blankets or pillows.  The cabinets had little to no food.   I had hoped and prayed that when we moved to the USA, things might be better.  They weren’t.  They were never the same… and in fact it has only gotten worse.

Now, my days are filled longing. Longing for a glimmer of the man I once followed around the world and gave up my whole world for. Longing to be touched, loved, and cared for like he once did.

April 2016 - Everything looks happy from the outside, but really I'm miserable
April 2016 – Everything looks happy from the outside, but really I’m miserable

Sometimes, I get lucky and that man appears… a few hours, a day or two… I am reminded of the love we shared. Until it’s gone again. Gone in the sorrow of depression. Gone in his inability to focus on anything or anyone other than himself.

I have to manage and regulate his pain medication. I have taken away all ability for him to spend money. I have to beg him to help with the children. And I am petrified to leave him home alone.

Last week I started the most exciting work/school opportunity I’ve had the chance to be a part of in 10 years. Last week, I nearly had a panic attack because I didn’t trust that the father of my children would be able to handle being alone with the kids. Not in fear that he would hurt them… but that he would sleep all day or ignore Matthew when he just wants Dave to play with him. Things he does even when I’m home… so I know he’ll do it when I’m not here.

I am sad for my son that he has begun to see that his father is not the man he used to be. Matty tells me that he only loves me and Sissy (Emily) and he doesn’t want to spend time with Daddy. It breaks my heart that he knows when he’s not being put first.

May 2016
May 2016

It feels as though I probably shouldn’t be “calling out” my husband on all his “faults”… “faults” that have been caused by the wounds of war. That I should keep these things private.  But the truth is… I am so tired of lying to the world.  I am so tired of making it seem like everything is okay.

Everything is not okay.  I’m hanging on to my family by a thread.  I feel like the weight of my husbands mental health rides on my shoulders.  I feel like if I crack… our whole life will come tumbling down.  I can not keep it inside of me anymore.  I need to let it all out… I need to write about.

A few other caregivers of wounded soldiers have mentioned to me on several occasions that I need to mourn the man I married and start adjusting to this new man.   The man he has become.  But my question is… what if I don’t like this new man?  What if this new man isn’t a good husband or a good father?  At what point can I leave?  Start a new life for myself and the children?  Or do I have to stay with him because leaving a wounded soldier isn’t “what’s right”?

Am I a horrible person for being at the verge of giving up?  I just don’t know how much more I can take… and I know I can’t keep silently pretending that my life is okay.   I am just so tired.  So tired of the ups and downs, the inconsistency, the pain.

When is enough, enough?

50 thoughts on “Coping as a Caregiver to a Wounded Warrior

  1. You should be seeking professional help instead of airing your husbands struggles on social media. How inappropriate and insensitive.

    1. No Vanessa – you have it wrong. We need to be talking about how the war has damaged our soldiers and how the Army is not taking care of our soldiers. Being a part of 2CR, you should know first hand how horribly soldiers are treated, especially those with combat PTSD. It’s not just my husband’s struggles… it’s mine too. And, I have ever right to talk freely about it. If you do not like it… take yourself else where. But I will NOT EVER stop being me and I will not hide or pretend that this shit isn’t hard… just for the sake of people like you.

      1. Betsy bravo to you for talking about it. If a nation is going to send it’s men to war they should be fully aware of the costs. It’s too whitewashed. Shame on anyone who tries to silence however you want to cope with your pain.

      2. If you are sincerely looking for help and not just pitty, I am certain you know where to get it- and that’s not on a public blog. If you need help getting pointed in the right direction, I would be happy to help with that.

        1. Stop it. This is why these issues are so hidden and stigmatized. Do not try to scold her or shame her. Unfortunately her story isn’t rare or unique. Too many military families have been imploding for years with no end in sight. This is the personal cost of war. We should be shouting this from the rooftops instead of hiding the painful mess in shame and guilt.

      3. Good for you Betsy….Vanessa was wayyyyy out of line with her remarks to you…..has she ever heard “walk a mile in my shoes”……I commend you for recognizing your struggles and for your sanity’s sake posting and getting it off your chest…..this is exactly what you need to do and there are many people who want to help with your unique plight …so keep talking and do not keep it inside…and please do seek help …..to help you cope,,<3 <3

      4. You are 100% right!! This has to be talked about…right now it is a big dark secret that the Armed Forces do their best to hide. I have not had to endure what you are going thru but my heart is with you. Please try to get him help but if he won’t go and refused to do what may help him then you have every right to continue on with your and your children’s lives without him. It won’t be easy and you may doubt yourself or blame yourself…don’t…go get yourself some help so that your children have at least one parent who is functioning for them.

      5. Great reply Betsy, the support offered is not good enough and opening discussion can only help to bring awareness to those affected by PTSD. No one should be shaming or shutting down this important discussion.

    2. What do you know? Military families are coping with things the average family doesn’t have to. Sometimes talking (blogging) about what’s going on is the only outlet someone has or it’s the way they cope. Also there is absolutely nothing wrong with Betsy sharing her experiences as a caregiver of a soldier with PTSD. Having said that, it is toxic people like you that exacerbate people’s anxiety about coming forward and sharing important information about personal experiences and struggles that may help someone else who isn’t as comfortable with sharing. So Gi STFD and be quiet.

  2. I don’t have any answers for you. Just know, if you need anything we are here. Even if just a get away to Columbus. Hang tight for the glimmers. Much love.

  3. Betsy, I have followed you for a long time. I started by loving your recipes, and now realize I love your honesty and your heart. You are truly a good woman in every sense. I am grateful to your husband for serving our country. I am sorry for all that you and your husband have lost at the expense of his serving our country. Please know you are in my heart and prayers and I will keep you there. Be good to you. Know that you have touched so many and you are loved.

    1. <3 Helen - thank you. Sometimes it gets so hard to be so happy all the time... that I just need to keep it real and share the struggle. xoxo Thank you for your love.

  4. your honesty amazes me, you are sharing what a lot of soldier wives go through, and you sharing, will make it easier for them to share, it breaks my heart, I can feel your pain in your words….everyone is really fighting for our veterans now, but we tend to forget what the wives go through…

  5. Betsy, I don’t know what to say except that I am so so sorry. I can only imagine the immense heartbreak of your situation and all I can do is hope and pray that some changes for the better happen soon. <3 <3 <3 I'm in awe of all you do and how hard you work.

  6. You are stronger than this chapter that you are currently in. Hang in there, stay strong. Be Betsy…..by taking care of Betsy first. Positive energy, thoughts and prayers are being sent your way. Keep letting it out…don’t listen to the negatives others say. They are not walking in your shoes, down your path. Our soldiers and theirs deserve and need more. ~ Best, Dawn

    1. It’s like I heard all the horror stories of what can happen to soldiers after war… but I never in a million years thought it would happen to mine. We’re being pushed out of the Army so quickly… there’s no way to get his issues in check before retirement. And then the VA is supposed to help him? This system is fucked. Completely fucked. Hugs to you <3 xxoo Thank you, Amanda.

  7. Betsy, I’m in tears tonight that you, and so many other spouses of service men & women, are going through this. I’m not sure there is a right way to handle your situation, that’s why it sucks so bad. Know that I am praying for you, your husband, and your family tonight.

  8. I’m so sorry you’re having such a tough time right now. Be kind to yourself. No one expects you to be invincible. It shows great courage to admit your reality. I hope you can find support to help you work through this and find the right path for you. If that happens to be a different path than it might be for someone else, so be it. That makes it different, it does not make it wrong. Take care.

    1. I expect myself to be better than what I am now though…. falling apart has never been an option for me. It’s just hard. Thank you for your kind words. xxoo

  9. The depth of your vows is certainly being tested right now. For richer, for poorer, for better, for worse, in sickness and in health…I hope that you all have access to professional counseling and that you seek it. There’s no way to conquer all of this damage alone. You are brave and you are strong and if you have faith in God, immerse yourself in it. Hang on to it as your lifeline and get the counseling you all so desperately need. He may need in-patient care for awhile, and I can tell you from experience that it literally is a LIFESAVER. You are all in my prayers.

    1. Well, we never had a wedding… or exchanged vows. So I’m not really sure what is being tested. My husband has been in in-patient care twice already as well as out-patient intensive day long programs. They work while he’s in it… but the aftercare is lacking…. that’s how this has all fallen apart again. 🙁 Thanks for the love and support.

  10. You’re not alone. And I applaud you for saying something. Too many people fake the perfect family on social media instead of breaking the stigma. You are doing a good thing by trying to keep your husbands life structured but if it reaches the point where he’s draining from your cup to fill his then you have to do what best for yourself and children, and it’s not wrong or selfish. You can’t exhaust yourself trying to keep him alive if he’s not getting the help or making the effort. Mental illness is 90% but there is that 10% that he needs to try, a small effort or gesture on a daily basis. You need to take care of you too. Sending love and prayers, I love your blog.

  11. Just wanted to say I am thinking of you and praying for you and your family. So glad you posted this as I agree it is just not talked about enough.

  12. I feel like we are both walking the same path! I am also an Army wife who’s husband has PTSD & depression caused by his war experiences. I have also wanted to walk away & create a new life for myself & my children. This has caused such a wedge between us & divided us so greatly. But once my husband went on antidepressant & PTSD meds, I noticed the change in him. Not only did I notice the change but he noticed the change within himself. He is also seeing a therapist twice a week. My husband to the outside world prior to the meds & therapy was a normal happy everyday man but when he was home the kids & I would avoid him because he was impossible to pleased & was such an unhappy person. Not only was I pretending everything was ok to the outside world but so was he. Please get him the medical attention he needs. The Army will pay for all of his medical expenses. This is truly a life changer for my family. From one Army wife to another, i will keep you in my thoughts & prayer. I wish your family the best.

    1. The thing is, my husband is already on meds and has already had treatment… he just allows himself to get back into depression and forgets everything he has learned. His mood is impacted 100% on my mood and how I react to him. I can’t handle it all falling on me anymore. He refuses to see a therapist… so I’m just to a breaking point. Thanks for your kind and supportive words.

  13. I don’t have the answers, Betsy, but I’m thinking about you and I’ll pray for you and your family. Hopefully we can catch up in real life soon.

  14. Betsey …. What an amazing woman you are! Don’t ever lose sight of YOU … If more people were as honest about PTSD there would be a greater understanding of the effects on the family … Don’t listen to negative people, surround yourself with as much positivity as you can and find the way to move your lovely little family into a good place … I feel for you as you have a long journey ahead but I am sure you can do it.
    As an ex army wife myself I stand beside you and wish you the very best in your difficult times xx

  15. It totally rips my heart out to read what you have written. I’m in the “it’s important to share this” camp. If not for your sharing, I wouldn’t have a clue. Please don’t take this the wrong way, but at some point you have to put yourself and your children first. Are you there yet? I don’t know. I’m so sorry for the pain and confusion you are feeling, Betsy. If only I could wave a magic wand and make things better for all of you.

    1. I am slowly trying to put myself first. However the hard part for me is giving up the idea that my marriage may never be the same…. or may be over. 🙁 Thank you for the love. xxoo

  16. Oh Betsy… I’m so sorry you are going through this. I am going through some significant things here on my end and having to shoulder many things that i had hoped i wouldn’t but i know it can’t compare to yours. I do understand somewhat having to adjust to new life changes. I hope you do have someone to talk to; someone who helps you with your coping because no matter what, you can’t give up. Hang in there and you always do what is best for the kids. Always. I’m always here!!! <3

    1. No need to compare. One persons struggles are no less important than someone elses. We all have things on our plate that are difficult. You are the sweetest, kindest friend Shannon. Thank you for always supporting me!!! xxoo <3

  17. Ummm I’m not sure how you think talking shit about your husband on a blog is going to help you. If things are so bad with you and the man who provides you and your family with your income which buys you food, shelter, a car, the Internet and computer you use to talk smack, then leave him. By the sound of it, just by reading some of the stuff you post, you’d be doing him a favor. You’re the stay at home mom, you go get food and beds and crap for your family. Is he supposed to do everything while you stuff your mouth with “Java cupcakes” and pound away at a keyboard? Sounds like the only thing your husband needs to overcome is his fear of leaving you. I’m sure there are plenty of patriotic women out there who would love to keep him company and build him up stronger instead of belittle him. Shame on you.

    1. Oh Dennis. Your ignorance and judgement are radiating from the words you typed to me. Only I know the real truth and reality of my life, relationship and situation. My blog is my safe place, my haven, my little space in the world where I am free to share anything and everything I want. The ways in which sharing my feelings, the things I am afraid of, and my situation are completely up to my discretion. You, if you don’t like it… have the same discretion to not read it and to stay away. Which is what I urge you to do instead of passing judgement on someone you know little to nothing about. I really hope you are able to open your heart and mind to the plights of others and then lend a helping hand, a caring shoulder, or a listening ear instead of the judgement you so badly tried to pass on me. Good luck to you and your life, Dennis.

  18. I work as clerical support in the mental health and have had my oldest son in crisis and hospitalized because he was suicidal. I know how difficult it can be to live with someone who suffers with mental health issues. It’s a difficult and sometimes long road and there still is no guarantee they’ll be “fixed,” it can be a lifelong struggle.
    You have expressed how you really feel and what your options may be and you know what, you need to do what feels right for you. I command you for putting yourself out there. You and your family have been through a lot and what your feeling is real and valid. I will recommend that you also seek services because it sounds like you may be going through depression yourself. It seems like your angry because you don’t have the man you married. Anger, i don’t know if you’re having them, and anther outbursts are also signs of derision. Anxiety can be triggered because of the depression, too.
    I’ll pray for you, doll. In the meantime, you try and hang in there. It may be that you’re at the end of your rope but this is something that can pass or if push comes to shove, you can leave. No one needs to be anywhere they don’t feel right. Of its something you feel you need to do, no one can or should fault you, it seems you tried somehow.

  19. I’m so sorry to hear what you are going through. It’s painful to feel like things may be beyond repair. It doesn’t mean they can’t get better, but for now it sounds like you’re not feeling like it will. If you’re not already, I would highly suggest you go into counseling by yourself. Maybe at some point couples counseling could help, but right now you need support to help you figure out what you want to do. I’m a social worker, so I am biased in favor of counseling!!! You may have already tried counseling, but if you felt it wasn’t helpful, you may want to try a different therapist. A good one can be a life changer. My heart goes out to you and I’m so sorry you are dealing with this. Most people who have responded sound loving and supportive of you. I hope they help you feel you’re not alone. Ignore the other ones!

  20. Dear Betsy,
    You’ve been on my mind since I got the notification of this post, knowing without reading it the challenges you are living with and through. No easy feat. I think of all your Dog Tag Bakery posts on Insta and am more in awe of your achievement there knowing that you were there each day in fear that Dave would not be living up to the responsibilities of being father and husband.

    I am deeply sorry for the effects of war on Dave, how you no longer are with the partner you believed you’d be with for life. Shame on the military for not going beyond the call of duty (as Dave and others have done) in their continued care of your wounded warrior. And quadruple shame on those whose comments here were, well, judgmental and mean spirited. Being a care giver is hard, hard, hard. As is telling the truth. We live in a culture of looking good instead of being honest so good for you for breaking your silence and telling your truth. You are entitled to your voice and your reality.

    It has been a month since this post and I hope that you no longer feel you are falling apart. Sometimes, though, falling apart is the only way to proceed. I know you are strong enough to pull yourself back together, whenever that is and however that looks.

    Congrats on your successes, this one included.

    with love and prayers, Deb

  21. My heart goes out to you, Betsy. I know first-hand what you are going through, and especially how hard it is on a young family. Thank you for reaching out to me on my blog – https://awaywithherwords.com – where I write candidly about what it’s like for our young family to live with a husband severely affected by PTSD. I am so saddened to read the unsupportive comments that have been left here – you have shown incredible strength in opening up and sharing your reality. It’s not about looking for pity, it’s about starting these conversations that have been swept under the carpet for far too long. So much can be gained just from connecting with others who are walking the same path as you, because no-one truly knows what it’s like unless they’re in it. Take care, and stay strong.

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