Monday, August 27, 2012

Hard Truths and an Honest Look

I've been doing my part of this whole PTSD thing... At least, I'm trying to.  I'm researching, looking for information and tips on how to cope as a spouse.  It's an overwhelming process.  It's beyond overwhelming.  It's painful because I cry with each new thing I read.  I tear up and think, "It's like they are talking directly about us."  It's painful because there are truths out there that I have to confront, but don't want to.

The truth is, we fight because of me.  My husband is not picking fights, nor am I, but I have continued to try to force him to be helpful and mindful and thoughtful.  None of which are things he is all that capable of.  We fight because I'm hurting and feeling ignored, none of which are things he can do anything about.

The truth is, I have not accepted the situation we are in entirely.  I have continued to look back at who we once were and who we might be someday.  But I have refused to look at who we are now.  Who we are now is a couple, living with PTSD.  It doesn't matter who we once were, it doesn't matter who we might be, or if we can be those people again.  What matters is the here and now.

The truth is, I have become the person they warn you not to be.  The caregiver who is all consumed by caring for their spouse.  I have become unable to do much else and it's become all that I am.  I do not see my friends, I don't have an escape and I have nothing that is just for me.  My whole world is centered around him, his needs, what I can do to be better...

The truth is, I'm making it worse.  Every time I make excuses and take the blame for why we aren't going somewhere, every time I try to cushion the blow, soften the punch, downplay the situation, I'm making our life worse.  Every time I put my foot down and say I will not tolerate this behavior, but never follow through, I'm making it worse.  Every time I tell myself that I can take on more, I work harder, that I can pick up more slack, I'm making it worse.

But there is this odd contradiction in terms of how to make PTSD fit in your life so that you can heal.  On the one hand, I'm not supposed to be all consumed by being a caregiver.  I'm not supposed to compare myself to others, I'm not supposed to try to force him into a role he can't play.  But on the other, I'm supposed to create a structured environment for my spouse, I'm supposed to make lists to help him, I'm supposed to create buffer zones financially to be sure we can pay our bills, I'm supposed to be prepared for anything.  It's overwhelming to think I'm supposed to do all of that, but I'm supposed to fight to not be all consumed by this situation... How can you do both?

I don't know how to cope to be honest.  I can look at these lists of real life symptoms and think, "I can't remember a life before that."  I know how his laugh used to sound, and how happy I *think* we were, but we've been living this life so long, I can't remember.  Did his need to always sit facing the door of a restaurant start before or after.  Did he used to clear the house when he heard a noise before?  Did he not used to respond to my emails/texts/calls?

I talk about our before and after.  I talk about who we once were and who we are now... But so much of how life is is a blur.  I look at these lists.  They say the clinical symptoms are fine, but look at all the ways they can manifest.  "Does he forget to clean this, or follow this request?  Does he do this or that?  That is his PTSD..."  But was he like that before?  I don't know.  I can't remember.  These little nuances that I've never thought about.  These small behaviors that feel like they just always have been.  Have they just always been?

I don't know.

But I know that as I seek understanding, I find heartache.  As I learn more, all I do is question more.  And all I can feel is guilt.  Guilt that I might be making things worse.  Guilt that I can't help him more.  Guilt that I'm afraid to actually reach out to a real person...

No one ever tells you how painful this process can be for the spouse.  And now I have a new thing to feel guilty about.  Guilt that I'm thinking of my own pain in this process, when his is probably much greater. 

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