Friday, June 8, 2007

Dealing

This is something that has crept through my mind many times because it's something we still deal with a year and a half after Sgt's return home from Iraq. I've posted before about seeing a counselor before he came home in an effort to try to get myself together to be able to help him with whatever we may encounter. It worked, to a degree. But there are just some things I can't do to help him and the only thing I can do is stand by him in hopes he'll come to me. When the "honeymoon" period ended, it ended. It was rough but I'm very fortunate in that he never took his anger or aggressions out on me; he has never laid so much as a finger on me. New Year's '06 was the first time I saw the effects of being in a war zone. People on the street behind us were shooting off fireworks and he shouted "DOWN! NOW!" I was in the back bedroom and the tone and volume of his voice scared me and I went running. He was in the living room and had the most "empty" look on his face. But what was "empty" to me was him in combat/survival mode. It took about 45 seconds for him to get his wits about him and he apologized for scaring me. I told him no worries and retreated to the bedroom to finish what I was doing but instead I cried. Sgt. came home with no physical scars but the emotional ones were slowly showing and I felt helpless. Truly 1000% helpless. I knew there was more to him than what was showing on the outside. His mannerisms had changed. I often found him speaking to me the same way he gave orders to his men. I tried my best to not correct him but there was one day that his anger got the best of him and he yelled at me. Now, we fight and have arguments but this was pure yelling unlike anything I've ever heard from him before. For the first time, he actually heard himself and he wept. Not so much because of what he said but more because of how he made me feel. He finally saw that there was something else going on inside and felt out of control.

To this day I can still look in his eyes and know that something is going on. It's not all war related but there have been so many residual effects it's become more of our daily life than I ever imagined. I know it sounds naive but this was new territory for us, as it is for so many, and a learning process and we continue to learn from it.

As we hang in limbo for another deployment, I try to be proactive and more conscious of the way we approach things and how I handle them. I've learned to be more sensitive to some things and less to others. I often put on my "big girl" pants and roll with the punches. One thing we are doing differently is we talk through issues that arise completely and not just enough to put a band-aid on it. Those band-aids cause more problems in the end than they solve in the beginning. It's tough to do sometimes. He was builder his last tour but since he has changed to the National Guard, he is a combat engineer dealing with IEDs and the likes, which is what he did when he was a Marine.

His deployment did a lot of things for our relationship on many different levels. On somethings it brought us closer together others not so much. One thing it did bring to light was how important we are to each other. Absence made our hearts grow fonder but reintegrating strained it and I would be lying if I said it didn't. I wish I had words of wisdom for spouses who are getting ready to go through this for the first time, especially new wives. Not that it's all that different but being newly married brings with it so many things to deal with anyway. I hang on to the words of the spouses who are on their 2nd and 3rd deployments. Communication is key and, for us, pride needs to be checked at the door.

The Sgt. L family is a team. We laugh together. We cry together. We irritate each other. We love each other. We support each other. We talk to each other. I still stomp my feet and slam doors but when I open it up, Sgt. is there for me, waiting with the patience of Job. It has taken a year and a half to learn to deal with things and we're still learning and we'll forever be tweaking our relationship.

The milspouses, moms/dads and girlfriends/fiances are my rocks my strengths. I lurk more than I comment but I have found I'm able to take something from each of you to help me on my path. The bird's eye views from our soldiers and vets also help keep me in check. Your view is just as important and I learn just as much from you. I truly hope to be able to meet some of you in person next year. You are all amazing and I'm humbled to be part of such a tightly knit community.

5 comments:

loquita said...

I always feel that I take something valuable away from your posts too. Thanks for sharing so openly and honestly, as you always do. These days I'm thinking a lot about the future, and the possibility of marrying my Marine, and I hang on every word of yours and other spouse blogs. Making a marriage work can take a lot of work under any circumstances, and like you, I take a lot of comfort in reading about those who've been down the road of multiple deployments and still make things work.

Cat is my copilot said...

Thank you, Loquita, for expressing how I feel after reading Sgt. L's Wife's entries. I am not a Military wife or girlfriend, but I too 'take something from you to help me on my path.'

Your depth and honesty is educating and inspiring to me, and your writing is easy & enjoyable to read, even when the topic is not.

I came to your blog after reading your most beautiful response to the Andy Rooney controversy on AS's site. Sorry if I am repeating myself with this story (short-term memory is just not my strong point!)--I pop by often and just wanted to say something, anything, as I found this entry moving. :)

PS--are you going to the SA convention this summer? I am, & if you are also, I look forward to meeting you!

Jes said...

Dealing too-

Thank you for expressing the strangeness of the return. My guy is Army guard, Infantry Medic, and after an 18 month deployment, sustaining injuries, etc... He came back full of pride and ready to go back to school, we partied often, had many soldier's over, then many things sort of crashed and burned.... He needed medical help, and after his active duty time was up, the VA was slow to give it.n Appointments were very slow, getting MRI's required 4-5 appointments just to get the neck, the main area of injury. I think they wanted to send him to sleep apnea testing for his mental state. (He hates the 4 letters that stand or what happens after trauma) Anyway, it's been over a year, yesterday was the 2nd anniversary of his friend Duplantier's death, and we are still just at the first stages of getting through it all.
Tours of duty can be over, but the need to "take a knee" when the firecrackers blow, or assemble and load a gun if he hears something... these are still very engrained. I wish I could tell you more, but I would be disclosing too much in writing. Anyway, the toll on families is deep and multifaceted. It sounds like you have some great coping strategies and you guys are probably out of the woods on the worst of it!
Hugs and I am going through a similar deal-
Jesse

liberal army wife said...

Sgt L's wife - thanks for this. I am only a couple of weeks away from welcoming my DH home after 22 months away. And while he hasn't been running convoys, i have the feeling he's done a lot more than he's been telling me...

But after 30 years of marriage, I'm sure I'll be learning new things about him.

Thank you for your comment on my blog. You put it REALLY succinctly. as another friend said... she has a case of dumbass in the pantry...

LAW

Doug and Terrye said...

My dear and precious Secret/Moonbeam sister, I am so in awe of you and your ability to put into words what is in your heart. Your husband...and your whole family have my untomost respect and admiration.
Terrye in FL