Have you ever been in a situation and felt completely alone? You knew no one else in the same situation and no one around you could understand what you were going through. That is often how caregivers feel.
As military spouses, our service members many times come home from deployments with injuries. Sometimes these injuries are visible which people can see and somewhat understand what you both have to deal with. Often times though, their injuries aren’t visible. As anyone with invisible injuries (PTSD and TBI’s in this case) and chronic pain knows, people don’t even begin to understand. No one understands what caregivers deal with either. Tiptoeing around their triggers, dealing with the anger, the addictions, the personality changes, and having to learn to love our spouse again as the person they are now. It’s a truly isolating time. You try talking to friends and family and while they may try to understand, so often they just can’t. Some are sympathetic and truly try to help and educate themselves, but then others just don’t care or won’t listen to what they consider excuses. The latter situation just then makes you feel worse and even more alone.
All that isolation and dealing with everything alone and then one day, you find yourself in a room full of other people in the exact same situation. As you listen to their stories, listen to them breakdown from all the pent up emotions, you cry along with them, but at the same time, a huge weight is lifted off your shoulders. You’re with people who get it. Who know what you are going through and know what you deal with. They understand the odd things our spouses do. Those odd things are the new normal now, but they were odd in the beginning. The sleepless nights, the odd things that would trigger moods ranging from anger to completely shutting down, the never wanting to leave the house, the constant medical appointments, and the list goes on and on.
Last year when I went to a Caregiver’s Retreat through the Semper Fi Fund, that is how I felt. Listening to a room full of women talk about their husband’s issues, his injuries, and the way he has changed or certain things he does now, was a true turning point for me. I obviously know there are a lot of service members out there with PTSD and TBI’s, but it never occurred to me what their spouses were going through. While all our stories are different, we are all basically going through the same thing. I was given the opportunity to sit in another such room last weekend, with a new group of women, all with similar stories. Being able to talk and vent and then leave with contact information for new friends is something that makes me think I can handle just about anything. It made me realize all I’ve handled so far and while we have a long road to go, I know I can continue to deal with everything and support my husband in the way he needs to be supported.
If you are in a relationship and dealing with a spouse who has PTSD, TBI, or any combat related injuries, please find someone you can talk to. It has made a world of difference for me. While our situation isn’t normal, it is our normal and finding others with the same normal, just makes it that much better.