I’ve been working since I was thirteen. It was my way of getting out from under my mother’s finger. I was an only child. And I was never allowed to do much. I had to beg to go on sleep-overs and parties and other things my friends invited me to do. It was a way I could meet new people and hang out with friends AWAY from my parents. The money was a benefit.
I continued this throughout high school and college. Even when I got married half way through college, I still continued; but now it was a necessity. At first it was minimum wage jobs, but I refused to work at fast food joints, and I would have been a horrible waitress. I’m a klutz. I did enjoy my time learning everything I could about plants from the nursery I worked at through college.
After college, I couldn’t get hired for a “career.” I didn’t want to be a reporter, as my degree was in English with a Writing Concentration. I was misled! I wanted it to be Fiction Writing, but instead, I got business and journalism writing. I didn’t want to be a teacher. I knew I did not have the gift, nor the patience. And I knew absolutely nothing about kids. So I continued my menial jobs because something was better than nothing.
It took me about 4 years after graduation to secure something other than a retail position, something that actually could LEAD to a career. I wrote about that journey in another post, here, if you’re interested how I went from majoring in English to a career in Information Technology. Basically, I was sick and tired of the computer being “the other woman” that I took it upon myself to put one together and learn how to use it, for the sake of our marriage. When someone came into the software store I was working at in the mall who owned his own Internet Service Provider, I asked if it would be ok to come see what one looked like. He invited me. I brought my resume. And they hired me as a tech support representative. Even though I knew nothing about fixing computers, they worked with me to learn them and within a year, I became the Tech Support Manager.
When we moved to Germany, I got a job in civil service working in computers there as well. It was more than I had ever made before, even though it was an entry-level position. But still, I had the opportunity to grow and expand my career.
Then, the deployment happened.
We didn’t know it would change our lives the way it did. We didn’t know that all his previous accidents at work and in the field had any affect on him either. It just steadily got worse. At first I blamed it on Germany, his command, and how they had no regard for anyone. Overworking him. Overlooking his abilities. And making his life hell.
Upon returning stateside, I continued my IT career, but this time securing a contract position with the government instead of civil service. It was more money, and secure enough for the time being. He still had a couple of years left on his enlistment. Things were going well. Until they weren’t. His headaches were coming more often and worse. He passed out several times because of them. And finally, he met a doctor that PROPERLY diagnosed them as migraines. He got the proper medication; however, he also informed him that if they continued to debilitate him the way they’ve been, if he re-enlisted he would recommend a medical discharge.
This came around the same time as when I got pregnant. We had decided a while back that whomever made the most money would stay home with the children. It was a rough time trying to conceive. But we finally made it. And unfortunately, communication and improper focus led us to him getting out. You can read about our parenting journey here. Most of it was the Army leading him to believe that if he were to get out on a medical, that he’d lose his Honorable status and his pride really took hold. In hind-sight, though, he wouldn’t have lost it, and it may have been easier to deal with the VA for his benefits and we wouldn’t still be fighting them. It’s hard to tell.
Everything happens for a reason. And we will focus on what we do now, instead of the “what ifs.”
So, he got out. After 13 and a half years, he just got out. He had his Honorable Discharge and a broken body. His migraines gradually got worse. Depression from the chronic pain set in. I thought the civilian doctors could give him better treatment. We went from doctor to doctor, from nutritional supplement to holistic therapies. We tried everything. Nothing worked.
He filed his first claim with the VA. Nearly completed the process when we had to move for my job. That ended in disaster. Again, hindsight. He should have stayed for a few more months to get the rating out of Texas than have it transferred to Florida where everyone is denied and denied and denied. We keep appealing and re-applying with each new diagnosis.
It just got worse from there. The years went by. Doctor to doctor. Medication to medication. I nearly lost him
once twice because of that. Heartache to heartache. Depression and anger grew out of control. When he finally received some VA benefits, he was allowed to go to the clinic. He had his regular doctor visits once a year, and they assigned him a psychiatrist to help with everything else.
He’s been going to the VA since 2004. It’s taken a long time for him to work through some things, admit others, but he still has lots to confront. We work together as a team to re-learn how to communicate. We struggle. But we get through.
The biggest issues come mainly from the physical pain. That pain, plus his medications, keep him locked down, unable to function like a normal human being. He hasn’t been able to work in seven years. He can barely get out of bed sometimes. We’ve put up blackout curtains in the livingroom so the light is bearable for him. He can’t go outside because of the photophobia. He can’t do physical exertion without triggering major pain. So the chores around the house don’t get done. He also suffers insomnia and nightmares on top of everything else. Being a hermit, a recluse, has lost us our friends, and robbed us of a “normal” life.
I still work full-time outside the house, bringing in the majority of our money for bills. Without it, we wouldn’t survive. I worry about my job every day because I’m still in a military contractor position. I’ve come down to my 11th hour several times over the years, but God graced us by allowing me to keep my job. I am grateful but overwhelmed. The older I get, the more drained I become.
I wake up at 5am and go to work. When I come home, I have to cook dinner. I really, REALLY, hate cooking, and grocery shopping. I’m not a planner. Nor am I a cook. Plus, I forget to leave meat out to thaw most mornings. I’d so much love to have a service that would pre-cook my meals so I could just pull them out of the freezer and heat them up. But we can’t afford that. I’ve checked. It’s expensive. Someone, get on that for our vets! Please?!
I help TheBoy with his homework. I TRY to do some chores around the house. Mostly I just keep the kitchen clean. The vacuuming and laundry usually get pushed as far back as I possibly can. The lawn…that just doesn’t ever happen. It makes me sad because I have always had visions of a beautiful garden. I even have hedge roses that I envision as gorgeous. But the weeds. I am utterly exhausted and trying to keep up with the weeds never EVER works. We get a lot of letters from the homeowners association about our lawn.
I try to do it all. I just can’t. And then I feel like a horrible wife. Overwhelmed, exhausted, and sinking into my own depression.
Do I get angry that he doesn’t help? Of course. It’s a natural emotion. But when I look at him, sitting on the couch or laying in the bed, clasping his head, weeping, mind numb, eyes glazed, and barely moving even watching TV or playing on the xBox, well, that look says it all. He’s in pain. And I can’t ask him to help. I feel horrible for being angry at him, and then remember I’m not angry at him. I am angry at all the situations that broke him.
It’s when he breaks down that I can’t handle very well. YET.
When he breaks. When the pain gets so bad, he breaks and goes to his dark place again. When he wants to give up. When he feels like a failure. When he feels like a burden and that we’d be better off without him. When he hates that he’s made me a single parent. I spend a lot of my time in a pool of my own silent tears, not knowing what to do. I do my best to find the light, for both of us.
I do what I always do. I’m here for him. Because I love him. With all my heart and soul, I love him.