Dear Combat PTSD,
You cannot have my husband.
You may be able to make him toss and turn with nightmares, but I will always be there to wake him up and comfort him.
You may be able to make his fists fly at the walls in anger, but I will always be there to calm him down and help patch the holes. (That room needed to be repainted, anyways.)
You may be able to fill his words with hatred, but I know better. I know they come from you, and I will lock them away.
You may be able to drag my husband down into the bottom of a bottle, but I will always be there to pull him back out again. I will make him dance with me to silly music until his smile breaks through your clouds.
You may bring sorrow, despair, anger and lethargy, but I will fight you with kindness, love and hope for a future free of your chains. So you see, PTSD, you may have taken up permanent residence in my husband’s mind, but I am forever in his heart.
And that is why you will never have my husband.
As someone with OCD, routines have always been a significant part of my life. I always saw success in a family moving like a well-oiled machine; from the early morning dance to get ready for school and work to the late night bedtime rituals, being organized and having a daily routine helped you accomplish more and succeed in life. And then I met my husband.
My husband is a disabled veteran with Combat PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) with alcohol dependency and a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury), and our daily routines look a little bit different than what I was used to. In fact, we can’t have a daily routine. Rather, we have a routine for “good” days, and a routine for “bad” days.
My husband is 100% service connected and doesn’t (can’t) work a normal job. I, however, have a full time job and several part time ventures. On a good day, I am able to juggle my workload and household duties while making sure my husband has enough on his plate for the day to help keep him from being bored, but not too much so that he is overwhelmed. It is a delicate balance and forces us to take life one day at a time. A successful day for us might look like a normal day for another couple—the house is moderately clean, we’ve accomplished all of our humble goals for the day, and are able to go to the gym together before sitting down to dinner and maybe a movie before bed.
On the bad days, though, it is routine to keep my keys and phone on me at all times, just in case I have to leave in a hurry. I will tuck myself and our dogs and cat away in a corner somewhere and try to monitor my husband from afar. There is no dinner together, and sometimes my husband’s PTSD means I can’t even sleep in our bed, but rather kip out on the floor. Days like this make the good days all the more precious.
What I have come to realize, though, is that sometimes those well-oiled family machines I admired so much can lose touch with the little things that make the routines worthwhile. My husband and I, though, are brought back down to earth on almost a daily basis. Small accomplishments become huge successes, and we have learned to appreciate the little things in life. Even something as simple as a lazy Saturday morning together drinking coffee and reading the newspaper becomes a miracle.
As my view of routines has changed over the years, so has my measure of success. To me, our real victory is that my husband and I both continue to have hope. He will always be fighting his battle with his PTSD and TBI; there will always be good days and bad days, but we will succeed in facing them together.
Photography Credit: Flickr/ U.S. Army