Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Damaged Goods

You know how a lot of bloggers have their husbands write a guest post? Mine prefers to give me ideas of what to write and fun titles.  Which is what he did for this post.

I wanted to write a little bit about our experience with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

For those of you who haven't read our story, Rob and I were together for a year and a half before he joined the Army and was whisked away to Georgia, Alaska, and later Iraq. His deployment to Iraq was a tough one--he was shot, was involved in countless explosions, and lost a few friends.  His MOS (or job) was 11B - Infantry - so this was exactly what he was trained and prepared for. 



One of the most common questions I get when people find out that I'm a former Army girlfriend/wife/partner/whatever is a cautious, "Is he okay?"  It's interesting to me that Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder has become such a familiar term in our collective consciousness that in this situation we both know exactly what we're talking about.

Anyway, as an answer to that question, yes, my husband is okay.  He and I were both lucky that he came back relatively unscathed, both physically and mentally.  This doesn't mean that he hasn't ducked and covered at the sound of an unexpected fireworks display, or hasn't been reduced to tears by a song or another reminder of one of his lost friends. It doesn't mean that something as simple as being cut off by a car doesn't make him see red, or that people asking him "did you see anybody die?" doesn't frustrate him into near-silence. It doesn't mean that he hasn't yelled death threats to our downstairs neighbor after that neighbor yelled at our dog for walking too loud (for real, we moved after that). 

How my husband spent Christmas 2006 (he's the handsome one in the middle).
It also doesn't mean that he is a victim or someone to be pitied.  Though he is happy to be free of the military, we both know that he would do it all over again in a heartbeat.  His military experience is always with him in one capacity or another because it helped to make him who he is today.  I know that the comraderie he feels toward the men he served with is a friendship I can only begin to grasp, because it was an experience that I have no way of truly understanding.

What is interesting about our situation in particular is that PTSD is something that Rob and I share.  While I would never come close to comparing what I've gone through to his combat experience, PTSD in some form is regardless still very present for us.


For my part, I still deal with remaining family issues from my youth and early adulthood, the death of my best friend at a young age, and in a secondary way, my husband's army experience and the many goodbyes and nervous nights.  These experiences have impacted how I approach just about every situation, from dealing with criticism and authority to worrying that Rob will up and desert me at any moment.

I wanted to write this, I guess, to say that though PTSD might seem like a bit of a handicap or stumbling block in a marriage, facing it and dealing with it has given us real experience in dealing with the give and take required of any relationship.  Somehow, when Rob finally got out of the Army, we transitioned into living together as though we were picking up where we left off...despite the fact that we had never lived together before.  When Rob is weak, I am strong.  I take over making phone calls and scheduling appointments when he doesn't want to deal with people, or remove him from a situation that could cause him frustration or anguish.  When I am weak (the far more common scenario) my darling husband takes the role of calming me down, hugging me, and letting me know that I am loved when I most need it.


All in all we  are the sum of our experiences, both the bad and the good, and in our case I wouldn't have lived our lives any differently or changed anything.

I hope this doesn't come across as a whiny or negative post (a constant fear of mine).  I know that there are many whose situations or life experiences are far worse than ours. I only wanted to share a little honesty about our experiences and how we've landed at where we are today.

Rob and I both think that this song pretty much covers it:

24 comments:

  1. It's definitely not a negative post at all - I think it's a very candid look at your lives and I thank you for sharing it. I love hearing about how you support one another, I feel like that's what loving another person is.

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  2. You two are very beautiful together. I know that PTSD can completely tear apart a marriage, so I'm happy to see that the two of you have worked to become each other's strength, and feed positively off of one another. Very encouraging post, dear.

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  3. You guys are truly an amazing couple. I wasn't lying when I said I hope I'm as happy as you are one day in another comment, because I know you've both been through a lot. I admire that you've made it through a deployment and all the military drama and have come out on top--you know that so many couples don't make it through that, so when one does it's something to really be happy about and proud of. I think this story gives people hope that you really *can* make the best out of a not-so-great situation and become stronger people because of it. Great post :)

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  4. Great post! And not annoyed or whiny or at all - it's great to hear about this from your perspective having no inside perspective of my own whatsoever. Thanks for sharing!

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  5. Not a whiny post at all! It was amazing! Thank you for sharing :)

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  6. I didn't know your husband served -- so thank you to him for that! I am also with someone in the military so I know what it is like to move around and deal with all that stress. I have also seen PTSD tear people apart -- it's good that you two are a unit and a team and take care of each other.. you to him AND him to you. :) :) Really special. Sea Marie

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  7. Great post Caitlin. I had goose bumps reading this!!
    Not whiny at all. Straight from the heart!
    Thanks for sharing.


    Liz

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  8. Great post! I dealt with PTSD in my teens, and although I feel I have overcome it greatly, I dont think it ever totally goes away. In some small ways it is still there, and still affects the way that I do things or react to things every day.

    Its fabulous that you have a partner that takes the time to understand and help - I am lucky to also.

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  9. This is a great post, Caitlin! Thank you for being so candid and open about PTSD and not always painting rainbows and sunshine on everything. Your blog is honestly a breath of fresh air for me, and I think you and your husband both are great people with a relationship to aspire to :)
    Much love,
    Adie

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  10. Great post and thanks for sharing. My hubby also avoids fireworks and isn't fond a sudden noises or crowds where he can't see the exit, but he's also "okay". I get that question all the time too. And truth is, 3 tours to Afghanistan and he's not broken. He's just changed.
    Thanks for sharing your experiences.

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  11. This is a really great post Caitlin, and the two of you are so great together. Even though you didn't go through what Rob went through, I know you still understand to a certain extent, especially to be able to write a post like this one. You really wrote this straight from your heart and I loved your honesty :)

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  12. wow, thanks for sharing. i honestly don't know if i'd be strong enough to be you.

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  13. Damn great read. 4 years of my life spent in the army without seeing actual violence - not too sure I would be okay if I had.

    Thank you so much for sharing this.

    Best wishes to both you and Rob - I was really moved by your story.

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  14. This is such a great post. My husband also served in the army, and was a squad leader in the very first wave into Iraq attached to the 3rd Infantry Division back in 2003. He came back different in so many ways and I, as well, am different today. He's been home for 7 years now but I still jump when the phone rings thinking that something might have happened to him at work (he's a mailman, so obviously that's a little silly). The after effects are endless for both of us, but at the same time I count myself lucky every single day that he's here with me...and that's he's doing so well when so many from his unit are not.

    Thank you again for sharing. And thank you to your husband for his service to our country.

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  15. Such a beautiful post, you are both so blessed! Being in the military never leaves you, it has shaped both Shawn and I into the people we are today and given us so many positive attributes. PTSD has affected so many, in one way or another, and you are right, it is not a handicap but an experience. You are awesome!

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  16. You are so strong Caitlin! I admire you and your man's strength! It seems like you really take care of and lift each other! I know a few girls with PTSD and know a decent amount and it requires strength! And my husband would have gone into the military were it not for collegiate baseball...we look up to those men and women so much! Thanks for sharing!

    Ashley Sloan

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  17. Thank you to your Husband for his service, and thank you for sharing your story.. I came from volatile, young parents and as the eldest, I spent most of my childhood protecting my siblings-- which in turn has caused me to have a hard time in relationships in love and friends. It's a breath of fresh air to hear about 2 people making it in love despite circumstances that can tear others apart. I'm glad I'm not the only one with an amazing man to be proud of. :)

    cheers!
    ryan
    (http://thismustbetheplaceryan.blogspot.com/)

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  18. It's great to see you can be so open about it Caitlin!
    I have struggled with PTSD myself, though not from anything as huge as the military, so I feel like I really understand where you're coming from. My husband hasn't had to deal with anything like that so we have found that while there are of course occasionally struggles with it, it generally really does bring us closer together. He knows how to avoid the things that set me off, how to help me through it when something does set me off, etc.
    Ain't love grand?!
    =]

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  19. "I know that the comraderie he feels toward the men he served with is a friendship I can only begin to grasp, because it was an experience that I have no way of truly understanding."

    I've never been able to explain it to my husband. I miss it.

    I never saw combat. I was never shot and I never saw someone die. I still cry at the songs and miss my friends who did go and didn't come back. And I still have that bond that will never go away.

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  20. Caitlin! What a genuine post. You're honesty is so beautiful. You both are beautiful. I would LOVE for you to share your Love Story someday on my blog :)

    xoxo
    Katie

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  21. Love your story and how honest and genuine you are! thank you for sharing your story with all of us :)

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  22. Beautiful post friend. Love how you write about your experiences. You and your mr are amazing. :]

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  23. Proud of you for sharing - while military isn't our PTSD background, we both struggle with it too - and if there's ever a time when you're both weak and need the other to be strong, just remember that leaning on each other makes a teepee that keeps you both up, and you'll make it through. Love you and love reading your blog. You're amazing. Liz (from OBBT)

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