This post has been a long time in the making. But here goes.
A little bit of background first. I met my husband in late October of 2005.. Two months later I peed on a stick and we found out we were going to be parents. After that things moved very fast, and we had some issues, but we worked through them for the most part and were married in March of 2007, when our son was 7 months old. A few days after marrying, my husband lost his job and we made the decision for him to go active duty in the Army. Prior to that he had served in the National Guard for 6 years. We met two weeks after he returned home from deployment.
We didn't spend much time together during our first year of marriage due to Hubby's responsibilities with the Guard and then when his contract was transferred to Active Duty he was sent to Germany. Our son and I followed 3 months later. Even when we were there he was working 14-15 hours a day, so we didn't spend much time together. And then a few days after our first wedding anniversary my husband deployed again, this time for 15 months. He came home on my birthday in 2009. And that is where our story really starts.
During the entire deployment all I heard from the FRG and similar groups was to not expect my husband to come home the same as when he left. I wasn't stupid - I didn't expect him to come home the same as when he left. He went to war for God's sake. I don't think anyone comes home unchanged from that. But I was unprepared for how much he had changed. I didn't notice it right away, but it quickly became more and more apparent just how much he had changed. I first noticed it a couple weeks after he came home. I had made an appointment to get my hair cut, then spent some time wandering around the PX by myself. I took my time because I didn't think I had to rush home and I hadn't really had any time to myself for almost 2 years. My son was with his father, and when Tommy was born Hector and I worked different shifts so he'd be home by himself with Tommy for up to 10 hours a day. With no problems. That day I was gone for less than 4 hours. And came home to a furious husband and a sobbing toddler. Hector blew up on me about being gone for so long.
Before that last deployment the man I had married was outgoing and gregarious - someone everyone wanted to be around. He was the guy you went to when you needed help because you knew he was going to know what to do. He was the life of the party and had patience for days. He very rarely got mad, and you had to really push him to get him mad. The man who came home was sullen and withdrawn. He was hesitant to spend any kind of time with anyone except me, or really go anywhere. He was angry - a lot. And for silly little things. He'd get really angry really easily. And then he'd shut down. Just sit at his computer for hours and days at a time and would get upset if he was interrupted.
And then I found out that he had a TBI from an explosion downrange. The convoy he was in was hit by explosives. And then I learned about the PTSD. Those seven letters have become the third person in our marriage. We have spent the last 6 years struggling to figure out how we worked. I've had to take control of every aspect of our lives. Not because I want to be a control freak, but because there are things my husband can no longer do.
We've dug ourselves out of hell so many times I lost count. There have been so many times where I just don't think I can do this anymore. I can't be his enemy anymore. Because how do you fight against monsters in your own head? I honestly think that sometimes I become the physical manifestations of his demons. I've had to learn patience like I've never had before. My skin at times is a mile thick. I'm a referee between him and the kids. I'm his buffer against the outside world. And that can be so overwhelming at times.
We've come a long way in the past 6 years, but it will never be what it was. We've gone through too much, and had to change so much. We work every day on making our marriage work, and it is a daily challenge. Some days are easier than others. On those days I can almost see past TBI and PTSD. Other days that's all I can see. I never know from one day to the next what will happen. I have no idea what our future looks like. But I hope and I'm determined that it will be a future we share.