Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Why My Soul Aches

There are nights when it seems like my soul aches.  Like it's nagging me, trying to make me realize something, but I'm just not understanding.  There seems to be a disconnect between who I am, what I'm feeling and where I am supposed to be in this world.

I woke up one day and started a blog.  I don't know what possessed me to do it.  I was just sitting there one day, feeling sad and lonely.  After years of frustration from being forced to remain silent, I just knew I was going to burst if I couldn't find a way to let it all out.  A friend who blogs offered to post things for me.  She said I could write and she would post them to help hide who I am, and in that moment, Our Before and After was born.  It started with a different title, but changed after just one post.  I wrote Our Before and After and knew that that was really what this was.  A log, a journal of the journey I am on.  The fracture in my life, jaggedly edged, creating a chasm between who we were and who we are now.

I thought that it was the magic fix that I needed.  A secret place to put my thoughts.  And as I wrote, people reached out.  They told me of their troubles, they said they felt the way I do.  And I realized what this was becoming.  A place to put my feelings so that others would know they are not alone.  There are plenty of places to go if you need advice or tips to cope, but where do you go to feel normal?

But lately, as I have poured my buried feelings and most private hurts on to a page that I can conveniently turn off and forget about whenever I need to, I have had a nagging feeling.  My soul aches.  It's deeper than a heartache.  It's more faint than the a general hurt.  It whispers and is barely there.  It's nagging me and I don't know why.

This blog was supposed to fix things.  I suppose that was a ridiculous expectation to have.  Though it lessens the hurt at times, and decreases the anger, simply typing words doesn't change that when my screen goes dark and I am left to the nighttime and the glow of my TV at 3am, my life is still what it is, even if for a moment I was able to pretend that my words were fixing something.  Come morning, he will still not be speaking to me, I will still have to face my job, and our life is still split into this before and after, with it's jagged edges to remind us of the stark differences and the loss we have to face someday.  Because, like it or not, the loss of what we were WILL have to be faced.  And I'm not ready to grieve the loss of who I was on the other side.

But maybe that's why my soul is aching.  Maybe it's time to let go of that girl.  Maybe it's time to face the fracture and see it for what it is... A reality that can't be ignored into oblivion, but can be moved on from... And maybe my soul aches, in the dark, at 3am because my glowing computer screen can't fix something that I am unwilling to admit is still there.


Sunday, January 27, 2013

Somedays I Wonder Why I Bother At All...

I don't know how many of you read regularly, how many are visiting for the first time, or if anyone reads this at all, but it's about to get very honest for a moment and I would really appreciate your understanding and for you to withhold judgement. I'm about to ramble/vent and I need this to be a safe place to be honest and let my real feelings out.

I'm having a day where I'm looking at my life, at my husband and at my marriage and asking, "Why do I bother?"  What's the point?

Everyday, I struggle to keep our life a secret.  I lie.  Flat out, not a grain of truth, lie. I cover things up, I sugar coat the truth.  Everyday I fight little battles against the world.  A world that doesn't understand.  A world that blames me, that misrepresents our life and that stigmatizes my husband. So I lie.  I lie to a world that would chastise the truth.

But for what?

For a man that comes home and ignores me.  A man that kills my joy simply because he can.  He's told me he is envious of what I have.  That fact that I am working hard to find ways to cope.  So whenever he can, he kills my joy.  He takes my triumphs and tells me they are worthless.  Why am I fighting for that?  Why am I lying for that?

I have these days, you can read all about them right here, where I feel inspired and defensive.  I want to the world to understand him.  I want the world to understand it's not his fault.  I want them to see why I stay.  But I have these days too.  Days I don't know why I stay.  Days where I look at him and wonder what it is all for.

He can sit next to me in bed and hear me say that I need him to talk to me.  And he will roll over and be asleep within minutes without ever having uttered so much as a moan in my direction.  Last night, I was trying to tell him the same frustration I have been having with a household item and why it needs to be replaced.  It's the same issue I've been telling him about for months.  It's the same request, "please set aside money to replace it."  And I got the same response.  He was mad at me for being frustrated, which he shows be gritting his teeth and looking forward at the wall with a steely stare.  And then he refused to actually talk to me, and then he rolled over and fell asleep without even uttering a moan that he was acknowledging I had even said anything.

Why bother?  Why bother at all?

At this point it feels like I'm just going through the motions of the dutiful wife... I've grown so used to being ignored and emotionally being on my own that I often feel like I'm just floating along.  I used to be the type of person that couldn't sleep if I were mad.  Now, I can have him do what he did last night and roll over and fall asleep like nothing even transpired between the two of us.

I needed him last night.  I had been stressed and then had good news sandwiched in.  It was a stress/good news sandwich.  He didn't spend long enough in the same room willing to speak to me to even know, listen or even give me a chance to say anything.

I give up.

Why bother?


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Semper Feisty Radio Talks About PTSD

So, I had another opportunity to talk about my life as the spouse of a service member with PTSD in public.  I don't know why, but it's always terrifying to me to do this.  For some reason the idea that someone is ACTUALLY on the other side of what I say, not just that I am perceiving someone to be there like on this blog.

But I did go on there and talk to them openly about what our life is like and how we try to cope.  I don't know that I was all that helpful.  I felt like I wasn't.  But, I also don't look at this blog as being all that helpful.  I don't offer advice or help or resources per se, I'm simply telling you what our life looks like behind closed doors.  I hope someone out there is reading and saying, "Wow! I'm normal, this is normal!"  But maybe not.  I don't know that what I'm feeling is all that "normal" but much of it is common and much of it is not what is out there publicly.

So I hope that I was helpful to someone out there in radio land, but I don't know that I was.

Either way, the other people on the show were amazing and offered some phenomenal insights and resources to check out.  Please take a listen and know that you are not alone and there are places to get help, spouse or service member alike.


Monday, January 21, 2013

The Ups and Downs

Being that my spouse has PTSD, we live with a lot of ups and downs.  I often feel like more downs than ups to be honest. 

The other day, my husband woke up mad at the world and frustrated with life.  When he wakes up in these moods, it's a safe bet that it's going to be a down kind of day. He fights, he's grumpy and nothing I can do is going to be the right thing.

So he woke up and stomped his way around the house.  He yelled belligerently at me, he made wild accusations and refused to let me end the conversations.  This is what he does.  He then refused to talk to me for days because I wouldn't give in.  This is also what he does.

Then he just came home one night in the best mood he could be in, apologized and that was that.  The mood was lifted, the down became an up and life moved on. 

That is just how our life is sometimes.  Like I said, sometimes it feels like it's more down than up, but it swings both ways.  But I never know which way it's swinging until he opens his mouth to speak to me (assuming he's speaking to me at all). 

The ups and downs can be a lot to cope with.  It's not that I don't scream back or cry or walk away.  It's not that I always react perfectly, it just means that this is our life.  The ups, and the downs.


Thursday, January 17, 2013


This weekend was the weekend of meltdowns.  It was the weekend of me throwing my hands in the air and telling him I wasn't going to keep talking and being ignored and I wasn't going to keep arguing in circles.  When I do that, he tends to stop talking to me.... For a long time.  He hasn't spoken to me in 24 hours and is unlikely to for a few more days at a minimum.

This post, entitled Sacrifice, is not about the sacrifices of the spouses and children, it's not my sacrifice I'm talking about.  It's his.  It's the very idea that I log onto Facebook everyday to see people arguing their points of view on raising children, gun control, the war, our governments choices, our President and any number of other things.

At work the other day two close friends asked how things were and I had to admit that he was melting down again.  I talk candidly about what was happening in our secret life behind closed doors, on our own private battlefield.  Both said they felt I should leave and that he should no longer be in the military.

To all of these people I want to say, my husband made a sacrifice for you.

He has sacrificed who he is, his marriage, his life, and sometimes, his sanity for you.  Think about what he is going through, the hell that he lives, the hell that I live and remember that you get on Facebook and spout your opinions without fear of reprisal, because you live in a land where others fought for your freedoms and others stand ready to at any moment to fight again.

And while you will read articles about how we spend months, sometimes years apart, and you will read about the sacrifices of military families, there are large points that they miss in those articles.  True, distances from your loved ones is hard, true we spend months apart, spouses suddenly become single parents, kids miss their mommies and daddies, money can be tight, benefits can change, and stress abounds in this life.  But what about the other sacrifices?

What about my husband who went to war, who loves what he does in the military, who was willing to give up who he was, he was willing to sacrifice his marriage, his love, his life as he knew it, to do what he believed in?  What about that sacrifice.  Me?  I love him.  And I am here.  And I will be here if he yells, refuses to talk to me, shuts me out and tells me he hates me.  Because tomorrow, he may not feel that way at all.  That is not a sacrifice, that is love.  That is determination to help the man I married find himself again.  But him?  He gave up everything for his nation.  His life is crumbling, his identity gone, his mind is fractured, his soul is wandering all in honor of the nation he loves, filled with people he's never met.

Sacrifice.  Though there are times that I feel I sacrifice a lot for this nation as a result of loving a military man, the sacrifices he has made are so much greater.


Monday, January 14, 2013

The Little Battles add up

Do you ever have times in your life where you just feel so defeated that you don't know what to do?  It's not even military related, it's just a situation I've been put in, that unfortunately isn't something I can really talk to anyone about. I can't go into specifics here either, but I'm hitting a point where it's not any one BIG thing to go wrong, it's these stupid little battles and frustrations each day.  Stupid little things going wrong, that are all building each day and I just had the final nail in the coffin. 

I just... I've hit a point where I feel like throwing my hands in the air and giving up.  Giving up on my dreams, giving up on everything.  Why wake up each day and fight?  Why wake up each day and push through?  My mantra has always been strength, nothing that is worth it comes easy right?  But why?  Why fight this hard for something so simple?

Why fight so hard for anything if you will just be waking up tomorrow to a new battle, a new struggle, something else going wrong, someone else being unwilling to help.

I crawl in bed every night and tell myself that tomorrow is another day.  Tomorrow is a day to start over. I don't have to carry these burdens.  Each moment we live is another chance.  Each day an opportunity to try again.  But why? 

It feels like I've been walking up hill for so long.  When do I finally reach the peak?  I'm not even talking about PTSD, or the troubles with my husband, but just... life.  just... life.


Thursday, January 10, 2013


Envy is a dangerous feeling to have.  Envy causes good people to do bad things, it can topple friendships and relationships into rubble.  The reason?  Because envy begets resentment.  I know this first hand.  You see, while I have a blog to vent my feelings and hobbies to past the time, my husband has nothing.  Now, he chooses to have nothing, but his choice has led to envy. 

The way my husband cycles is pretty predictable in a way.  Not that he has a rhythm in the sense of a time frame he always gets into funks, but he has a rhythm when in them.  These "funks" as I like to call them, start easy enough.  He's a bit grumpy or moody and a little difficult to work with.  But he does what all good funky people will do.  He makes it worse.  He feeds his funks with isolation and alienation.  He alienates me by being angry and mean and distant.  He can go months without directly speaking to me in a social manner.  And when he is speaking to me, he argues with me about everything and his behaviors become so unbearable that I withdraw from him.  So, over the years, I have developed hobbies. 

These hobbies all involve being home so that I can still offer support and take care of things, but I can dive into them for days or weeks on end and never think twice about entire days spent doing them.  And I enjoy it.  It's time just for me.  It's something I look forward to and it's something that keeps my mind off of the situation we are in.  It's helping to heal my anger.  I may not be blissful, but I can settle for less broken.  But my husband doesn't have anything.  He has hobbies, but he gives into the malaise that his funks cause.  Video games no longer enthrall him, he doesn't want to see friends, he just sits on the computer diddling around on Facebook and websites that have funny meme's because it requires no effort to do either of those things.  Toss in a few beers and he's now unwilling to do much of anything.

He hasn't spoken to me in weeks.  And the other night, we got into a huge argument about money.  I wanted some extra money to buy some items and he flipped out about how much my hobbies cost.  Per usual, his reaction was over the top.  And per usual, I was hurt and sensitive, so I argued back instead of walking away.  But what came out of this situation was pretty amazing.

I told him that I need my hobbies to cope.  I need a reason to get out of bed everyday.  I need a means of having time that is not spent constantly worrying about him.  It is SOOOO easy to lose yourself in your spouse and their PTSD (and/or TBI) and it's SOOOO important that you don't.  This is what I do to make sure I stay separate from his issues.  And he looked at me and said, so sadly that it broke my heart, "I don't have anything like that. I don't have a reason to get out of bed.  I have nothing." 

Then came the anger and the resentment that will always follow envy.  He told me that he was envious of my having found blogging and that I have it as an outlet because he doesn't feel he has one.  He is reluctant to tell me his feelings and stories and I don't blame him.  Not only would I not be able to truly understand, but I would probably be horrified by what he's been through.  He prefers to speak to his counselor.  And hobbies?  Well, he doesn't have anything that holds his attention long enough, and he's angry envious that I do. 

Envy is a dangerous emotion and I worry about that fact that he is so envious.  What I have to cope with is not the healthiest way to deal.  I'm not speaking to someone, I'm hiding.  But it works for me for the time being and that's all he sees.  And he's angry and resentful.  And that anger and resentment means he doesn't want to speak to me. So where does that put us?  I either give up my escape so that he will be less mad at me, but possibly lose myself in the situation without them, or I keep doing them and live with the angry outbursts, the escalations, the emotional neglect and occasional verbal lashing. 

I don't know that there is a right answer here.  I feel like it's a lose/lose situation.  I want to help him, I want to do what is best for him, but I have to weight that, as a caregiver, with my own needs and the priority I need to have to take care of myself as well.  And I fail miserable at that. 


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The World is Full of Ordinary People

I'm often reminded of the quote from Pride and Prejudice, "there are few people of whom I really love, and still fewer of whom I think well."  It's not a great way to feel about the world, but every time I hear it, it rings in my ears.

I don't want you to be under the impression that I hate everyone, it's simply that one day, this young lady grew up. 

As a younger version of myself, I was freshly optimistic about everyone and everything.  Everyone got the benefit of the doubt and I rarely thought ill thoughts of anyone.  You can call it naivety, but I simply call it a young heart full of hope for the world and the future.

But, like all young things, my heart grew up.  It grew up under the tightest of clutches.  I desperately clung to that youthful belief system and I wake up weary and sad that I am not that young, doe eyed girl anymore.

I still try to think the best of people.  I want to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, but it's a funny thing, growing up.  Your parents, who are the first people you ever truly know that well, and who spend much of your life shaping who you will become... Well, they become just ordinary people.  Your mom doesn't have super powers, your dad isn't the strongest man you know.  They are just people, doing the best they can.  And because they are ordinary, they are just as flawed as anyone else. 

It can be a tough realization for youthful hearts to see the world for what it is.  We are all just ordinary people, trying to make the best of what we have, working to be the best we can be, and struggling against our flaws.

There are few people whom I really love, and even fewer of whom I have a good opinion... people are flawed and I have a very guarded heart.  And I wish, more than anything, that I could go back to being that girl, that youthful heart so eager to love everyone and think nothing but wonderful things of them.  But I have grow suspicious of anyone new, I have been hurt by the flaws of those I once thought infallible, and I have begun to see the world for what it is, full of ordinary people.

But I have seen ordinary people do extraordinary things and it gives me hope that this cynical and painful view of the world I have taken on will be proven to be wrong. 


Saturday, January 5, 2013

"It's Hard" Is an Understatement

To say the life I lead is hard feels like so much of an understatement, that it may actually be the cliche that everyone is talking about.  Without divulging too many real details, my job is innately stressful.  It's the field I work in, the the nature of what I do.  It's nothing but stress from start to finish and I have always loved it.  But now that things at home feel less stable, things at work feel less stable.
My job has always been the place I looked forward to going to get away from my life.  I didn't have to think about PTSD or the struggles that take place behind closed doors.  I just showed up and do what I do best.  And I do it well.

But suddenly there has been a shift.  That shift happened when I could no longer allow my employer take me for granted.  I couldn't let them use trusty ol' Annie to pick up the slack, fill the shifts and generally be the dependable one.  It happened when one day I woke up and looked at my life and no longer had the will to get out of bed.  For two weeks, I got up, ate and went back to bed.  I wasn't sleeping, I was hiding.  I was hiding from my life. 

I sat in the dark, blinds drawn, TV on, computer in my lap, refusing to accept that outside of the door of my room was an entire world that functions without lying.  Most people don't go to work and lie about who they are.  They don't lie to friends about why they can't come visit, to family about why they can't make it to dinner or to themselves about how they really feel. 

I hid because opening that door meant having to admit that I don't always have all the answers.  It meant having to admit that good ol' Annie had no one but herself to rely on and good ol' reliable Annie couldn't bear to face the world feeling like no one knew her. 

So I hid.  For two weeks I told my husband I was sick, I told my friends I had a headache, I left my phone on silent and buried my pain and heartache in the shadows the fell in the corners of my closet. 

To say this life is hard feels like calling the Great Wall of China a stone partition. And I don't know how I can ever expect anyone who is not living it each day to understand why.  So, it's likely I will take to my room again one day.  I don't suppose it's so terrible to need a break everyone now and then.  But where do you go when your home is the place you are escaping from?

I take to my bed.  I hid in my room behind excuses, until I can find the strength to live the lie.

"It's hard" is an understatement. 


Thursday, January 3, 2013

We All Need A Win Sometimes

I disappeared around Christmas.  I did this because the holidays are stressful enough, but for some reason, everything triggers my husband making it that much worse.  It means that I spend the holidays being ignored or yelled at. 

It's not his fault, I know that.  And there is nothing we can do about him not knowing what is triggering this stuff.  It also doesn't help that the holidays are harder times to get appointments, which means he went a number of weeks without talking to his counselor. 

But here I am, sitting in a post holiday mess of a life and I find that I am randomly bursting into tears.  Not because anything truly terrible is happening, I'm quite literally crying over burnt toast these days, I find that it's more of the fact that, sometimes, holding it all together is just too much.  Sometimes, the energy it takes to be the calm reassuring voice in my husbands life means that I am having to stifle the cries of my own heart.  And sometimes, it means burnt toast for breakfast is just too much to cope with. 

On paper, it all sounds so ridiculous.  Burnt toast.  So, what?  Toss it and start over.  I suppose when your life is a constant mess, you just need the little things to go right.  We all need to win sometimes, and my wins don't have to be big ones.  I just want my toast to be done, the butter to be soft and a moment to eat it in quiet while thinking of only my toast.  That's all.  Just a silly little win before starting the even bigger challenges of my day. 

It's the little things in life, as they say, and I rely on those little things to see me through the big ones. 


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