Monday, May 20, 2013

I Am Stronger Now

“We'd been apart so long--I'd been dead so long," she said in English. "I thought surely you'd built a new life, with no room in it for me. I'd hoped that."

"My life is nothing but room for you." I said. "It could never be filled by anyone but you.” 

The other day I was sitting and reflecting on the deployment.  THE deployment, the one that shook my world and ended who I thought I was.  I was sitting and reflecting on moments that I had somehow forgotten had even happened... Somehow, I seemed to have forgotten lost phone calls and the few letters I had gotten.  

In a very strange way, I knew that whoever it was coming home, just didn't seem to be my husband.  It wasn't anything specific, it wasn't anything he said or did, it was just a feeling I had had.  And when I saw him for the first time it was like looking at a stranger.  He stood differently, he walked differently, his voice seemed odd.  There was no familiarity in the way he kissed me for the first time in year.  

We make excused, we spouses of those with PTSD.  It's one of our greatest talents.  The kiss was different because I had inflated this moment to be something more grand that it could ever live up to.  His gait has changed because of months of hard living in the desert.  The truth is, we all know something isn't "right" pretty quickly, but no one ever wants to be the spouse who's husband came home "broken by war" as it is often said.  

We have grown so used to it being shameful.  The secret that we all keep, the lie that we all tell, the life that we "don't" live.  We grow weary of explaining why we stay, of making excuses to those who won't understand and facing a world that has more misconceptions about PTSD than truth in it.  

The reality in my world is that I spend at least one day a week crying because of something he has said to me.  I spend at least one numb from the hurt of our life and another resolved to not give up and yet another resolved to quit.  But I love him and there is no other person who is better suited for me.  And this life has made me strong. 

I am now able to stand my ground against a man who used to easily sway me.  I am able to fight for the life we deserve against someone I love who is supposed to be building it with me.  And I am able to live my life each day the way that I want to because he isn't going to support my choices anyway, so why not do something that makes me happy?

It would be so easy to give up.  No one would blame me for leaving.  No one would hesitate to tell me I've done the right thing, I was in a terrible situation, I am stronger for being able to leave than to stay.  I would find that being able to openly tell others what was going on would bring relief and they would suddenly understand all the cryptic cancelations and flimsy excuses.  And in so many ways, my life would be so much simpler. 

But I wouldn't be stronger.  I would end up with another person who I was easily swayed by (not to say my husband used his power for evil).  I would continue to be a person who never fought for what she really wanted because it's easier not to, because keeping the peace is more important.  And really, what kind of life is that? Peace at any cost is no way to live. 

So, I live with a man who is easy to love but hard to stay married to.  I stay with him even though he can't love me back.  I fight battles that would be easier left alone because some battles must be fought.  I walk into situations knowing I can do no right, I will never win and yet I stand in the fire and refuse to let it burn me.  

There is no room in my life for someone else.  And I look at our life, tough as it is, and know that it is the one I was meant to lead for every path we have taken, ever obstacle I have overcome, ever battle I have fought and every tear I shed have led me to be someone I never thought I could be. 


Monday, May 13, 2013

Learning To Stay Post and Giveaway

I have had the fortune of having a truly amazing guest poster today.  Though I have never had a guest post, I feel honored that my first one should be written by Erin Cello, author of the book Learning to Stay, which chronicles the journey of a woman while she learns how to cope the the TBI and PSTD her husband returns home from Iraq with. 

She has been amazing to correspond with and has graciously offered up a signed copy of her book as well.  (details to enter are after the post)


Writers are always told to write what they know, but I haven’t really ever heeded that advice.

I started writing my first book, Miracle Beach, where a couple grapples with the loss of their child and the eventual dissolution of their marriage, when I was only 26 years old – years before getting married or having children was a blip on my radar. And in Learning to Stay, I write about a woman’s struggle to decide if she should stay married to her husband, who has returned from the war in Iraq with a traumatic brain injury and post traumatic stress, even though I don’t come from a military background.

So, I did not have that sort of personal experience to draw upon. That said, what I did have – aside from researching the issue through a vast network of military spouse bloggers and conducting interviews – was a brush with death that my husband had less than a year after we were first married.

In November of 2008, my husband went to the hospital with what we both thought was a terrible cold – pneumonia, even. We thought he’d return home that night. Instead, he was admitted to the intensive care unit, diagnosed with H1N1, and put into a coma for nearly a month, during which time his organs began to fail and his team of doctors offered little in the way of hope. My mind ran wild: even if he did come out the other side of this ordeal, which was unlikely, would he be able to do all that he used to? Would he need a kidney transplant or would the proximity to a dialysis center dictate our decisions and travels for the rest of our lives? Would his mental capacity be diminished because of the oxygen his body struggled each minute to take in? Would he ever be able to hold down a job after the toll the virus was taking on his body? What was the most I could hope for?

That was the million-dollar question; and also the one most impossible to answer. And so, I woke up every day of that month and hoped harder than I had ever hoped before simply that the doctors would provide me with a more certain vision of my life, my future. Our future. But if they held some sort of crystal ball, it was filled with mud. They wouldn’t say if things would be okay, or if my life would take a 90-degree turn upon my husband’s waking, or if he was even certain to wake at all. They couldn’t say, because they didn’t know.

It doesn’t take much for me to accurately remember the uncertain anguish of those days. The feelings I had are visceral and frightening to me still. And I drew on them often as I wrote Learning to Stay. Each night of my husband’s ordeal, while he was locked in a coma and I was desperate to talk to him, I wrote him a letter instead. Earlier drafts of the manuscript actually have Brad returning home much more seriously injured than in the final, published book, and in writing those scenes, where I originally placed him at Walter Reed Medical Center in a coma, I often referred back to the letters I wrote to my husband. In them were so many questions and so few answers, so much hope and so much fear. In them, I was already pining for a life that should have been – a life and a future I thought I was owed, and would never see materialize. I remember two reoccurring thoughts that kept me company during those days: We haven’t even been married a year, and It’s not fair.

Although the final version of Learning to Stay doesn’t reflect or include any actual details pulled from my husband’s harrowing medical experience, the feelings that Elise experiences as she deals with this new Brad who has returned home to her springs directly from my own life. Her grief over the new normal she is confronted with, her shaky steps forward down a barely-there path, those things ring true for me – and, I hope, for readers – because those were the same shaky steps I took. Her story, in that way, is infused with mine. And I hope that because of this, her story is all the better for it. 


Don't Forget to enter the giveaway!
a Rafflecopter giveaway


Thursday, May 9, 2013

How Do I Feel Today?

Do you ever feel like you have something burning inside of you that you just need to get out, but that you can't quite put your finger on?  I've always gone in and out of posting here consistently, but the last few (10) days has been because I can't seem to put into words what it is I'm feeling.  Is it hope? Fear? Is it cautious optimism? I don't know.

Things have been more up and down than usual.  One day, we are laughing and connecting better than we have in years, the next he is barely speaking to me again.  But he is speaking to me more frequently than before, the periods of ignoring are shorter and he seems to be trying to listen in a way he never has before.

We often have big blow out fights where I fight to be heard over the voices in his own head that are constantly battling with him.  He says he will listen, I know he won't.  But this time, something is different.  He told me to stop waiting to tell him I am angry or hurt.  I asked him how I was supposed to do that.  I told him I don't feel safe telling him things.  I know that if I said, "That was mean.  Don't speak to me that way." He will explode on me.  But if I wait, I get less of a blast, though still an angry demeanor.

I told him I can't win.  In the moment, he will escalate and he is doing that so quickly now that I can't control it anymore.  It's not safe for me to tell him things.  Sometimes I have panic attacks because I know I need to tell him something that will cause him to erupt.  I debate how important it is that he know.  I put it off.  But I know that I am trying to have a successful marriage, not just mitigate his symptoms and a successful marriage is honest.  It means that I knowingly incur his wrath so that I can continue to try to have communication and openness.

But it means I don't always feel safe talking to him.

For the first time, he saw it from my side.  He saw the lose/lose situation I am in.  He will get angry in the moment and possibly hurt me or he will get less angry after, but then not speak to me for weeks.  He will get angry I didn't tell him something or angry that I did.  And now that he sees that I don't feel safe and that I am afraid to talk to him, he is taking time to pause before speaking to me.

He is stopping and assessing his own reaction.

This has been a big step forward, but it has also meant that our rollercoaster ride has sped up.  Instead of weeks of not speaking to me, it's a day or a few days, but that means that we go through that ride so much more often than before which is a heck of a lot to cope with.

It means that I've logged into my blog a million times but have never written anything because I'm not sure what to say. I just sit here, staring at the screen, not able to put into words what I am feeling.  Am I happy? Sad? Unnerved? Nervous? Unsure? Scared? All of the above? It's hard to say.


You might also enjoy:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...