My husband is the bravest person I know. For the 8 years I’ve been in love with Dave, we’ve spent half of that apart. 3 years were of him deployed to Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom (’07-’08 and ’09-’10) and to Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom (’13-14′). The remaining time apart took Dave away on long nights at work and days, weeks and months training in the field.
Until recently, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was only something I had only read about or learned about from Army pre & post deployment briefings. I never dreamed PTSD would be something my husband and my family would be learn to cope with and live with.
This photo is from Dave’s homecoming from his most recent deployment to Afghanistan. Homecomings are amazing. One of my favorite parts of living this military life. Having my soldier in my arms after he’s been away fighting a war is one of the best feelings in life… knowing he’s physically home, safe and with me, it’s a priceless moment. Unfortunately, military life brings more than just joyful moments like this homecoming.
I am so incredibly proud of my husband, MY SOLDIER, for all of the time, hard work, sacrifice and dedication he has put into being a United States Army Infantryman. His profession requires him to be away from home a lot, putting his countries needs ahead of his own.
These needs range from late nights at work to ensure that his Troop has everything they need for the next days training to being in combat and witnessing the vehicle in front of his being hit by IED while on a mission in Iraq. You can imagine how stressful his job can be.
My husband has dedicated his life to the Army and in turn he has given up a part of himself. He has been forever changed. He will never be the same.
The picture above is from Iraq during his second deployment, Dave’s in the back/center.
Two and a half weeks ago, Dave attempted to commit suicide. Fortunately, he did not physically hurt himself, but it was evident that he was in so much emotional pain that he didn’t know what else to do and thought suicide would be the answer.
The 48 hours following his suicide attempt were probably some of the hardest moments I’ve ever had to endure as his wife. Harder than any deployment. My strength was tested and my eyes were opened.
Dave’s attempt on his life happened on a Sunday and since we’re on a smaller Army base in Germany the Behavioral Health Clinic on post was closed. Our only option was to wait until the next day to see a doctor. After being assessed by the clinic, it was decided that Dave needed to be admitted to in-patient care at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center (LMRC) on Ramstein Air Base. I didn’t see this coming at all. I thought Dave would need help, but I didn’t think he would be admitted. I think I was blind to how bad things really were for him.
See, Dave has always been the kind of person who was so laid-back, go-with-the-flow and casual that he never showed any signs of PTSD, anxiety, or depression that are commonly associated with post-war behavior. He kept his feelings mostly to himself and always put on a strong, tough exterior. I always got the impression from him that he was strong and was handling everything life through at him.
I was wrong. He was wrong. Dave was broken. The Army, previous life experiences, and war… they had broken Dave and now he was crying out for help. Something needed to change and it turns out that attempting suicide was the catalyst for that change.
Landstuhl is almost 4 hours away from where we live. I knew I wasn’t going to let Dave go alone to the hospital, so I pulled Emily out of high school early, packed up and headed across Germany with my kids to support the love of my life in his most vulnerable time. It is Army protocol that Dave be escorted by members of his platoon to the hospital, so three soldiers drove him to LMRC and I followed.
Up until this point, I had been by Dave’s side going through this with him… but as we arrived to the hospital, I wasn’t prepared to not be able to go into the hospital with him, get him settled in or have time to say goodbye. The Psych Ward at LMRC did not allow children behind their doors, so I was forced to say goodbye to my husband, my soldier… unsure of what was to come at the entrance to the Psych Ward. The tears flowed from my puffy eyes. I knew that Dave would be physically safe there… but my heart was breaking for my him. My strong soldier, my brave husband was so sad, extremely scared and I couldn’t be there with him. He had to do this part on his own and that broke my heart.
Visiting hours didn’t begin until 4pm the next day, so I set off to get my kids settled in at our hotel room on Ramstein Air Base. It was a long, sleepless night of mixed emotions.
I was scared. I was confused. I was heartbroken.
I really just didn’t understand how I missed it. How did I not see how much pain three deployments, a changing Army, a stress-ridden job had caused my brave soldier?
After a few days of being in the Psych Ward, Dave was diagnosed with depression, anxiety and sleep apnea all under the umbrella of PTSD. He was put on a few different medications to help him sleep and get his depression and anxiety under control so he could come home and begin working on his overall health and wellness. Dave was released from the Psych Ward a week after he was admitted.
I didn’t know what to expect when Dave came home from the hospital. I knew things would be different, but I didn’t know how.
There were triggers that brought me back to the moment I found out he tried to kill himself. The first time he did something that he previous did right before he tried to kill himself always seemed to set me off into a tailspin of sadness. The first few days were really hard having him home. I didn’t realize how much his attempt on his life really scared me until he was home and I was reminded of how I felt in those moments. I was so thankful he was home and alive that those feelings of joy for his life brought me back to reality and have kept me moving forward instead of dwelling on the incident of suicide itself and more on helping my husband feel better.
LIving with a soldier with PTSD is a helpless feeling. I look at my husband I wish I would fix it for him, take all the pain away, make the experiences he’s endured go away. It breaks my heart to know that this is his battle to fight and that all I can do is stand by his side and support him in whatever way he needs me to.
But, since being home, our marriage has changed for the better. It hurts my heart to know that it took going to the hospital for it to happen, but our marriage is better, stronger for it. We communicate more than we ever did before and we have a mutual understanding of what each others needs are. Our lives together as a couple and a family will never be the same. Some things will get harder and some things will be easier. Not all days will be full of anxiety, nightmares and pain. Those are the days I hold on to.
I can feel our lives changing every day. I am committed to standing by my soldier and our family as we navigate through what a decade of war and training has done to our lives. It’s not going to be easy… but the struggle will be worth it when my husband is healthy, happy and in control of his life again.
You may be wondering why I am sharing this story with you on my food blog. My husband wondered the same thing when I asked him if I could share this with my readers. It’s simple, my blog has allowed me to express myself in ways that I never imagined. Over the last 5 1/2 years of writing here, I have found that sharing the hard times with my readers really has helped me to cope and move forward. Meeting others who have gone through similar situations, creating connections with those who understand my feelings…. well that’s simply priceless. I share, because I want others to know that they are NOT ALONE in this battle against PTSD and that I am not afraid to talk about it.
So I will probably write about PTSD and our family again. It maybe an entire post, it may be a few paragraphs included with a recipe. But this is now a part of my life and I am embracing it.
For more information about Suicide Awareness & Prevention in the military, visit the Army’s website here.