I stopped posting for a while, because I’ve been feeling pretty ashamed of admitting defeat. I’m going to go out on a limb and be mask-less in this post. Before I start, please try not to take anything personally if I offend you. None of this is meant for any particular person. I’m just going to share what has happened to me as I have prepared for my husband’s homecoming post-deployment.
First of all, I referred to my husband as a “box” a few posts back. This is due to the symptoms that I saw in him during R & R. His body was here, but his heart was distant, and his mind was preoccupied. It was obvious to me, and to only a select few of our very close friends, that he was suffering from combat-related stress. I immediately sought counsel from an online Christian military wives’ support group, and was instructed to keep my feelings from him, but to talk about them with some close friends and family in order to avoid internalizing my own feelings. I tried talking to family, but my conversations ended with me feeling like they thought I was being dramatic about what I was seeing. I talked to a few male friends, and those conversations resulted in the conclusions that I was overreacting or seeing something that just wasn’t there. I was desperate for someone to talk to, someone that would understand, someone that didn’t treat me like I was crazy.
I know that I know my husband better than anyone else does. I know that he is a changed man. I know that his symptoms aren’t temporary. I know that he is changed for life. I know that I’m not crazy, but because of the reactions of some friends and family, I began to pull back from those relationships. This is something that is so highly advised against, but I felt like I had no choice. Who wants to talk to or hang out with people who think that you’re crazy? No one. And definitely not me. So, I became a hermit. I did have 2 families that I was able to be completely honest with, but I began to pull back from them as well, because I felt like I had become a broken record. Nothing was changing in my husband, and nothing was changing in me. We were at a stand-still of the unknown, dark, and scary, and talking wasn’t getting either of us anywhere.
I’m usually an emotional person. Anyone who knows me knows that about me. I’m gifted with intense empathy and sympathy for other people’s pain. When others are hurting, I hurt with them…usually. Slowly, as I began to pull into myself, I began to lose this ability to connect with others on a deep, emotional level. I noticed this first in my ministry, then with my friends, and finally with my family. The most alarming of these was when I realized that I was even emotionally distanced from myself. I began to tell myself that my feelings were stupid, that I was being crazy, and that I had no right to feel the way that I was feeling. I lost motivation to cook, clean, and exercise. I had days where I stopped eating completely or binged on everything in sight. I didn’t want to play with my kids or my dog. I didn’t want to socialize with friends or church family. I didn’t want to leave the house. I didn’t want to do anything!
I was so internalized that I felt myself crawling around in my own skin. I realize that that particular statement will only make sense to someone who has been there before or is currently there right now. But I could literally feel myself trapped inside of my body. It’s not as if I’m trying to get out either. I’m just living in there. I don’t want anyone to join me, and I don’t want to get out. I’m comfortable where I am, and that’s that. Just leave me alone, shut up, go away, don’t talk to me, don’t bring me food, don’t tell me you understand, and don’t try to help. Just leave me alone. I used to worry about and think about my husband, but there were some events that occurred between us, as a result of a combination between his combat-related stress and my internalized feelings, that caused me to stop thinking about him. I stopped worrying, and I stopped caring. I began to develop severe anger toward everyone I would come into contact with. I lost all sense of emotion except for anger. I forced myself not to act on this anger, because punching someone in the face for having 12 items in a 10 items or less line would be irrational, and I knew that. My logical self and my angry self were conflicted, and I felt angry with myself for feeling angry at everyone else, but I couldn’t stop my anger, so that made me even more angry.
I finally saw my doctor and sought counsel from church. I knew that I wasn’t myself, and I knew that I didn’t want to stay that way, and I knew that I couldn’t fix my problems alone. So, I was prescribed an antidepressant from my doctor. I tried not to be ashamed about this, and talked about it with friends. I immediately felt the results from the medication. I began to feel extreme emotional symptoms. One moment, I would be laughing hysterically, and the next moment I was sobbing uncontrollably. I gained back some motivation, cleaned my house again and got back on top of my laundry routine. I played outside with the boys and enjoyed playing fetch with Ace again. At first, I felt like this was a major fix, but then I realized that I wasn’t actually feeling those emotions. I was only showing the symptoms of those emotions. I was still numb inside. After a few weeks, I began to retreat into myself again. I no longer had anxiety issues. I had full-blown depression.
This isn’t something that comes easy for me to admit. I feel like so many people have said to me, “You’re so strong!” So, I’ve felt like I’ve needed to live up to their perceptions of me. I didn’t want to let my readers and friends down by revealing my inability to cope. My blog is subtitled, “An Army Wife’s Coping Strategies,” and I’ve run out of coping strategies. I’m a failure. Please, don’t tell me that I’m not, because this is a big deal for me to admit that I am, and yes, I am. I have succeeded in my suggestions of how to deal with the stresses of a deployed spouse, but I’ve failed as an example of how to cope with the stresses of a spouse who is suffering from combat-related stress.
This week, I’ve admitted that I need help beyond friends and family. I tried drugs, and they were a temporary fix. I need more help than what I’ve been doing, so I spoke to my pastor, and he set me up with a Christian counseling center. Next week, I’ll share some of my break-through’s from my first counseling session. It was wonderful to pin-point my source of anger and to have someone, who doesn’t know my husband or me, see things from my perspective and tell me, out loud, that I’m not crazy. I’m not ready for pow-wow’s with friends or family yet, but I know that I’m making progress. I have a fear that strangers might judge me for my depression, enemies might rejoice in my pain, and family/friends might be offended by the things that I’ve written. I’m afraid that other Christians might say that I have lost faith, but I absolutely have not. I can’t let these concerns hold me back from taking this step. I have to get better for my family and for myself. This is no way to live.
My name is Cathi. My husband has been gone for over 16 months. He returned from war with combat-related stress. I have depression from coping with his war injuries.
Until next week, keep your crazy to yourself, because I’m obviously dealing with enough of my own.