I would like to share with you an event that put me on the road to this whole “find the positives, no matter how small, in every situation” motto I like to tell people. It is a very hard action to do each and every day, especially in the situation I’m in as well as many others. But I feel that it is a very important mental state to strive for because, well, negativity infests, spreads, and kills. We don’t want that in our lives, do we? So here’s something I wrote a while back on my other blog. It’s my epiphany and I hope one day everyone has that moment where they realize that positive is the only way to think!
I learned a long time ago to surround myself with positive people. If you are negative, full of anger, mean or just downright pessimistic, I don’t need you in my life!
My epiphany happened between April and July of 1999. During that time, my husband was deployed to Albania. It was definitely not his first deployment. But it sure was his first deployment to a near combat zone. And it was a deployment while we were stationed on foreign soil, away from my comfortable surroundings of America and my family. I couldn’t just pick up the phone and call my mom & dad. Cost of international calls at that time were very high. I couldn’t even email them. They didn’t have a computer. My only support came from the wives of the soldiers deployed with him.
We were on a very tiny installation. It only housed one unit, and the whole unit deployed. They were an MLRS unit, called GRIDSMASHERS. They had track vehicles and could level anything with their rockets in an entire “grid square” (1,000 square meters). My husband, well, he was a wheeled mechanic. He was an outcast in this group. But, they needed a wrecker operator to pull broken track vehicles, and he was it. When their unit deployed to Albania, the whole installation went. Very few stayed behind for the Read Detachment. But, all the wives of the deployed had a support group. Or so they liked to tell themselves.
The FRG (Family Readiness Group), as it was called, was nothing more than a clique. Most wore their husband’s rank, especially the officer’s wives. Granted, they usually got more information about the deployment than the enlisted families did, and it was their responsibility to disseminate that information to all the families involved. But when the meeting morphs from information dissemination to hens cackling in their little groups, it just really isn’t anything more than high school all over again. I didn’t need it. I surely didn’t have the time for it. In high school, then, or now.
My husband and I hung out with a couple of other families before the deployment. When the guys deployed, one went home, one worked as much as I did, and the other, well, I hung out with her every so often until I realized that she never had anything positive to say. It was always “My husband’s a generator mechanic. They don’t need him.” “This deployment is stupid.” “I hate the Army.” Eventually, all I heard was “blah blah blah.” She was bringing me down with her. I was always depressed. I never had a smile on my face. And I cried…a lot!
Luckily, it wasn’t long into the deployment when I decided to cut myself off from her and focus my attention on the few of the girlfriends who really needed my help through the deployment. My husband was a platoon leader and in charge of several single soldiers who had girl friends. They were locals, not US citizens, but they still cared about their men (at least for that moment). However, the FRG refused to keep them informed since they were not legally married. I took it upon myself to keep the ladies informed. I brought them to the meetings and kept in contact as best I could with them. I became their rock when they worried. I became their shoulder to cry on. I became their rationalization when their fears took over. It eventually dwindled down to one lady who really clicked with me. And we became fast friends. And she was the only one who married her boyfriend when the guys returned.
It was great to be surrounded by positive energy, rather than that constant negativity I got from my previous friend. Before, I found myself scowling, fearing, crying, angry all the time. That was so much easier to do it seemed. But when I cut myself off from her, and became the pillar of positive to the girlfriends who needed it, it was so much harder to put on a smile every day. Despite my own fears and resignations on this deployment, I had to remain strong for them. If I faltered, who would take care of them? So, I put on a smile every day, and didn’t let it bother me. That was the hardest thing to do.
There was a time, a month before he returned home, when I found out the whole unit was coming home at the end of June…except a chosen few. Those few would be the first to enter Kosovo. And my husband was so lucky. I found out on a Friday, after work, at an FRG meeting. After my friend left that night, I couldn’t sleep. I did not leave my house all weekend. I did not answer my phone. I pretty much locked myself in the bathroom and cried. My fears all came rushing back, 100 times stronger. He was a mechanic. He had no formal security patrol training. There were land mines to watch out for. There were still battles going on in Kosovo. And I couldn’t talk to anyone. I was the one who was supposed to be strong for everyone else. I was the one who never crumbled. But I did.
No one was there to be my pillar.
It took me all weekend to get it all out of my system. I vowed from that point on to be positive, think positive, and always keep a smile on my face–no matter what. The girls needed me. Other spouses needed to see positive, regardless if we were friends or not. And, it helped me through the day, taking one day at a time. His return home was uncertain, and I just counted it as one day closer to his homecoming. Although that was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do, I feel I grew to be so much those four months.
That was my pivotal moment. Yet, little did I know that was also TheHubs’.
In fact, he came home back in 1999. I only just found out about some of the things that had been bothering him, things he saw, things that happened, at the end of 2012. In those thirteen years, we saw some really odd behavior. Anger, mostly. The insomnia, the nightmares. His pain got worse as time went on, and his migraines started coming daily. Not once did anyone think about PTSD or TBI. Everyone focused on the pain, as that was the most prominent.
I guess I thought it was par for the course, it was a symptom of the pain. I didn’t know and just went with the flow and hoped that it didn’t get any worse. But it did and I didn’t recognize it. I kept thinking it was always my fault. It wasn’t. I know that now. But it doesn’t excuse anything. His behavior. Mine. None of it. And now, I feel guilty for not seeing it all.
There was a time, just last year (2013) that I found out about the worst thing I could every find out about this and I don’t ever want to go there again. There were several times he almost died while in Kosovo. Once by a land mine. Once by his own hand. Survivor’s guilt? Maybe. Then, through all the constant pain, and the burden he carried with him, and what it was doing not only to him, but his family as well…well, he started rationalizing again. He came home one day from his VA Psychiatrist appointment telling me his doctor wanted to admit him for a few days. I was confused as to the reason, and he didn’t give any definitive reason why, he just said he wouldn’t let him. I know there are some issues that I will probably never know so I never push the issue to have him tell me everything.
He slowly started going down hill again. The pain levels were high, his medication intake was high, he even went in and the doctor prescribed a new medicine – “Let’s see if this works.” Those are panic-inducing words to me. Then he took another turn for the worse. He couldn’t sleep. And when he did eventually fall asleep, it wasn’t very restful. 40 hours awake, 2 hours asleep. Not a good thing for anyone to go through. His brain was just shutting down. He didn’t get out of bed. He didn’t do anything.
He felt “off” as he put it. He called me every day for a week, telling me “Something’s wrong.” I could hear it in his voice. And there was something wrong. I had forgotten to check his drug interactions. And we both recognized the symptoms of Serotonin Syndrome. Since he had it once before, he is more susceptible to getting it again, and much more quickly.
Sure enough, the new drug interacted with his current medications and there was that big fat red warning sign about possible life-threatening serotonin poisoning. So he stopped taking the new medication and I thought things would get better. They didn’t. He still had insomnia so bad and his lack of energy and eating left him bed-ridden again. He lost 60 pounds in the span of 3 months.
It was about this time when he told me about his rationalization. One day, while lying in bed staring at the ceiling fan, he said he had his own epiphany and he will never, EVER, go there again.
Like I said a in a few of my earlier posts, I think all this built up in my sub-conscious until it could no longer be contained because I started down my own dark road. I felt alone, guilty, angry, and overwhelmed. I wanted to run away and hide. But I knew I could never do that. The things with the most worth are the things that are hardest to achieve and hold on to. I loved my son. And I truly loved my husband. So I stayed. Still with all those emotions roiling inside me. I knew I needed help. It was up to me to become better. No one was going to help me. So I helped myself.
I can’t help but have that little tiny auto-thought surface every now and again, wondering if he might because you really can’t “cure” depression. You can only keep it under control. Like a recovering alcoholic, those tendencies never really go away. Temptation is always around the corner. But like my husband fighting to keep his demons at bay, so must I fight to keep my own away so I can help him.
Our life may not be what we ever envisioned. There are times it is very bad, and there are times it is tolerable. But we both made it through and we both are learning to recognize it and deal with it. It is a continuous battle to remain as positive as I can be. But if I don’t, what good am I? And how can I care for my family? So I do my best to remember this: