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Coping as a Caregiver to a Wounded Warrior

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?

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