PTSD The Unseen Hero's Journey
Meet Hearts of Patriots Member Anne-Marie. Anne Marie lives in Louisiana with her 100% disabled veteran and their two children. She shares her story here.
When my husband came home from war, I was entirely unprepared for the invisible wounds that resulted from his deployments. Looking back now, I realize each time he returned; I couldn't see the changes in him because they were so subtle, almost imperceptible. With two small children to care for, I sometimes didn't notice the glaring road signs that I see now as hallmarks of PTSD.
Epic Homeric Hero
Living as a PTSD/TBI caregiver is really another side of the hero’s journey that doesn’t get much recognition. I have often thought of my husband as an epic Homeric hero, much like Odysseus, who repeatedly demonstrated his skill and bravery in the fighting before taking the long journey to return home to me.
That story ends when Odysseus returns home to his Penelope, but I always wonder what it was really like for Penelope after he came home.
The myths don’t give us that answer. The fairy tales just end with happily ever after, but we all know it's not really like that. We have to make our own happily ever after, and it isn’t always easy.
Invisible Wounds of War
When my husband came home from war, I was entirely unprepared for the invisible wounds that resulted from his deployments. Looking back, I realize I couldn't see the changes happening to him because they were so subtle and almost imperceptible each time he returned. With two small children to care for, I sometimes didn't notice the glaring road signs that are the hallmarks of PTSD.
If somebody had told me to be on alert for changes in my husband, I might have known what was happening. Behavior, like chewing tobacco, isolating from friends and family, playing video games more often, buying a motorcycle, were all emblematic of what was going on inside him. If I had known, maybe I would have been able to get help for our family sooner. If the military had prepared us, perhaps other families and veterans suffering and literally dying over this crisis-level epidemic could have been speared. This has been our journey as caregivers of veterans.
A New Level of Caregiving
This past holiday season, our family faced major surgery for my husband involving extensive open wound care. Since I have no experience with this type of care and am a bit squeamish about blood. It was a new level of caregiving. The wound was ugly, raw, open, oozing, prone to infection, and needed special care after surgery. Despite that, it seemed more manageable than the invisible wounds we live with because I could actually see the surgery wound.
One of the aspects of care that I helped with involved constantly packing, unpacking, and repacking the wound with gauze so the wound could heal from the inside out. The nurses told me that the unpacking of the wound is worse than anything. You have to thoroughly soak the gauze with saline solution to prevent it from sticking to the wound, and then you have to pull the gauze out very carefully so that it doesn't get caught on any edges.
Maybe Our New Normal Could Be Our Happily Ever After
It is all too easy to brush it off and act like it doesn't exist. If we can recognize as caregivers and as a society that we need to help unpack the gauze and let the wound heal from the inside out, maybe we could find a happily ever after.
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