Don’t you absolutely love to encounter a condescending certified I-Know-it-All-And-You-Don't who is suppose to be there to help?
A couple of months ago, I had to call for help: «Bring him to the emergency, Lady! Duh!».
As much as I could understand the fact that my husband needed help, what she was telling me made no sense. In the middle of a PTSD crisis, I can't convince my husband to go to the emergency, I can't physically force him to go: he must be the one to make the decision.. And I hope nobody is expecting me to call the cops or the ambulance to force him to go, right?!
If the answer to that question is «yes», we need to talk.
I’m the kind of woman who generally deals with her stuff, problems and challenges on her own. When I ask for help, it’s because I have come to the logical conclusion, after numerous honest attempts, that I can’t solve a situation.
For instance, I can’t set-up the tent-trailer by myself. I can do everything else but installing the metal bars requires more strength that I physically have. I have tried, cursed and cried all together: Nah… Can’t do it. God knows how much I wanted to set-up the tent-trailer completely on my own.
I’m sure that nobody questions the «honest efforts» I have given to install the metal bars by myself and the fact that I am a woman might explain or «justify» my limited physical strength. Basically, if I tell you that I need help installing those metal bars, nobody will make me feel «weak» or «stupid» for being unable. The «general» context in which I need help is justified, socially speaking.
I wish many more could so easily «justify» and «understand» that when it comes to my husband’s PTSD, I have limited resources as well: I can’t always «do, know and be» everything to someone else’s pain and twisted perception of reality. It’s not a question about being «weak» it’s about being «human». Especially in a period of a crisis that is lasting for weeks.
It’s not a question of «weakness» to need help. But as a caregiver, asking for help when PTSD is at his highest level is a very complicated process. A delicate one. Do you have any idea what I had to go through to convince him to allow me to call you? Why the Hell do I have to justify so much the fact that I need help when my husband is going through a crisis? I still don’t understand.
It took me years to fully assimilate the fact that it is my responsibility to «reach out». I feel like one of the hardest thing to do is to accept that I just can’t do it alone and that I can’t be angry at myself because of the fact that I need help. To transform this acceptance into an actual physical gesture is the toughest part of all. «Reaching out» is a choice that includes a real physical challenges that requires more willpower than anything else: believe it or not, the prison in your mind can physically prevent you from reaching out. It prevents you from calling your best friend; to overcome the idea of calling a «stranger» is even more demanding.
Most importantly, I can’t risk to lose my husband’s trust when he is at his darkest hours. I can't risk for him to feel abandoned, I can't risk to become his enemy by betraying him.
When you, PTSD Masters are telling me to bring him to the emergency, you are not only asking me to convince him of the impossible but most importantly, but by doing so, I'm afraid he will feel «abandoned».. or will become angry at me.. or expect me to get him out of there as fast as possible.
I don't «bring my husband to the emergency» like I was able to bring my children. «Duh».
So when I call for help, especially when it concerns my husband’s PTSD, it’s serious. I am serious. I’m not calling to make you waste your precious time. I dare to say it: when I raise the red flag, respect me for who I am and who I represent. «Work with me» instead of «expecting me» to comply to what I know is not making any sense into our fortress. You should truly realize that the reason and the objective of my call to you had to be negotiated in return of his permission.
Don't you don't know what dealing with a veteran's paranoia means? «Duh».
Some «specialists» are simply not able to «hear» someone with PTSD call for help because they are literally fooled by the invisible uniform they know nothing about. Yeah, my husband will tell you what’s going on but he will tell you in such a way that if you don’t know the language, the true meaning of his words and his psychological sequence/strategies/social tactics, he will sound like a man who basically has everything under control. «I’ve seen worst. I’ve been through worse», he will tell you in an evasive way indicating that he doesn’t want to talk about it any further. Then, he will take control of the conversation: he will change the subject, he will make jokes, he will make you talk and he will fill the emptiness of a room using his undeniable ability to be superficial.
Unless he trusts you, he gets to decide what he tells you and what he wants you to know. «Going where it hurts» and for him to accept your intrusion in an emotional world he barely can’t explore himself require a level a trust that can only be «deserved».
In his darkest hours, I am the only light he trusts.
Especially when he is completely broken, he will rely and hold on to his invisible uniform as much as he can. Reaching out is especially more difficult when he suffers, as his invisible uniform will convince him as long as possible, that he’s still the soldier that he was once: «One man, one kit», «Mission comes first»..it doesn’t matter how you understand it, as long as you understand that he had to learn to think and to act based on his military culture.
On June 1st, I left my husband. I wanted to be out of this marriage. To make a long story short, I had to come back…My husband was –and remained- into a crisis that was clearly requiring psychological help and medication. In fact, he was asking for it himself. The man lost 40 pounds in one single month: that is how much he was hurting. He was completely disconnected at times, was completely relying on me to make some sense out of the panicking state f mind he was in. He was asking to see one person, the psychologist who followed him for 7 years: it took weeks for Veterans Affairs Canada to «allow» him to do so.
As his wife, I have no words to tell you how painful it was to see him, deprived of sleep and being overwhelmed with uncontrollable bursts of emotions that would make him scream, cry, walk in the town’s cemetery –although he never did before by himself- for too long, many times, days and nights. Minutes or hours, his walks were always too damn long, long enough for me to feel the anxiety eating me alive.
I want to reassure you all that we are doing fine (no kidding!) but I want to talk about the fact that last June, I called for help. Let’s forget the «why» and «how» to allow me to keep this text as simple as possible. But I could resume it by saying that after 14 years of marriage, an excellent understanding of my husband’s PTSD and my role to «support him» as his caregiver, I crashed. Completely.
This time, I was understanding what was going on and what he needed. I was understanding that his needs were way beyond what I could possibly give him. We both urgently needed him to receive help.
I was held prisoner into a mental prison into a fortress. «If you help me, you help my husband. If you help my husband, you help me» never made so much sense than this past June.
I insisted that he sees his psychologist. Instead, I was told to bring him to the emergency.
I want to talk about it some more in Part 2.