When my mother asked me where my husband R was going last week, I told her that he went to a clinic in DC to evaluate his TBI (traumatic brain injury) and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
My mother said, “He can’t have PTSD.”
“It’s only for women.”
“Only after they have a baby.”
After having a good laugh, I gently explained that that was called post-partum depression, something very different than post-traumatic stress disorder although you can probably get PTSD from PPD.
He’s still there now, amazed at the snowfall because he hasn’t lived in snow since he was in high school.
This stay, among the last few years that he has lived apart from us, is doing wonders for him. It is premature for me to share but I think he’s finally at peace with all of his ailments, his complaints, his chronic pain. Doctors are validating his experiences, his anecdotes of daily pain, his anxiety, his everything.
I can hear the sigh of relief from across the country.
I know him. He’s a good man. He has never been one to boast (quite the opposite of his spouse, heh), never been one to complain, and has felt guilty about his injuries because although they cannot be seen, he feels like he has to explain them all the time especially when a new batch of coworkers arrive.
He’s been talking with other soldiers who are going through similar situations.
This is exactly what he needed.
About a year after the accident, R told me he felt like he “owed” another deployment. He needed to go back for himself, for his friends who were injured, for his friends who died. Had he retired early, had he left the Navy early, had he done anything differently, he wouldn’t have arrived at this place right now.
He would have resigned himself to a life of regret.
Later he saw with his own eyes how much his command had changed since he last deployed. It wasn’t the same anymore. Many of his friends moved on or switched to different jobs. Later he realized regarding possibly deploying again, “What the fuck was I thinking?” Although we all hate that he is away, his geobachelor status forced him to find himself by himself without the distraction of a family because even though we may love our partners and families, they aren’t us. We need to know ourselves to be stronger in every element in our lives whether it is in our marriages, our families, or our professions.
How amazing it is for him to have the opportunity to learn more about himself, to know that his chronic pain is not in his head, to have doctors document his ailments both seen and unseen to the naked eye.
This hospital stay gives me hope that when he finally comes home maybe he won’t be as broken as I thought. He won’t ever be the same. None of us will.
But now we’ll at least have a map and a plan.