So I have been putting this topic off for a while now….mostly because I wasn’t sure how to address the questions or the stories shared with me and because I know what you are going through. Inwardly, I think I have been avoiding this topic because it hit so close to home, and I am trying to forget. I have had approximately 57 emails in regards to physical violence within a PTSD/TBI homes, and it saddens me to see so many of you are crying out for help. Saddening me further, is the knowledge that many of you who visit the site and don’t say anything, probably will never reveal that domestic violence is an issue with your veterans. For those that wrote me, I won’t be sharing your emails as promised, but I want to make sure you understood my appreciation for trusting me with such stories of your lives. I know it was hard to write some of the things you did, perhaps embarrassing to see it on the screen in front of you, and more so admitting that these issues were indeed real.
I have been following PTSD material, information, etc., for a while now and was quite surprised to learn that domestic violence, emotional abuse and verbal abuse was a common factor in most homes. I haven’t been able to find a straight-forward PTSD/Domestic Violence statistic online from the past few years – the ones I have, are all older than 1995-1997. Makes me wonder what happened to the people who were looking for these correlations between combat PTSD and domestic abuse then? Did everyone just stop caring?
One of you wrote that “Everyone says just leave – if I do, he will go nuts or something and kill himself. Do you understand how I feel knowing I can’t go because of this and the constant back and forth?” Yes, ma’am, I do. I have only had a few serious issues with my husband in the four years he has been home and dealing with PTSD. My husband constantly talks about suicide and the fact he wished he never came home which he thinks would have solved all our problems so he would not have to hate himself so much. It’s not a statement he uses to hold something over my head, it could just stem from generic conversations like “How did your psychiatrist appointment go?” or “You need to go get a haircut.” In the blink of an eye, his angry outbursts could turn very scary with him picking up tables and chairs, hitting walls, breaking things, and pushing me around. Grabbing me by the arms or wrists would leave bruises for a week or longer. I kept thinking to myself, “If it gets worse…I will have to leave him.” Just when I think I am ready to walk out the door and just give up…..the thought occurs to me, “If I leave, my husband will simply become another statistic on some blank page that no one cares about”. It blows over, he switches back to his semi-normal PTSD self and acts as if nothing ever happened. In the mean time, I am cowering on the inside and permanently waiting for the fists to fly. There isn’t an apology because he doesn’t realize he does it. If he does snap out of it, then its like he is humiliated and doesn’t want to even look at me.
I don’t want to admit that my husband has pushed me, hit me or cornered me in the kitchen and yelled and screamed in my face until he was red, shaking and spitting on me from the anger. I never had to deal with this growing up, never had this happen in our relationship ever, and so for the most part, I feel confused. Where do you draw the lines between “not being able to control their emotions or behaviors” and “they don’t know what they are doing as they often black out”? I do know that being a verbal and physical punching bag is not ok. I know that I should walk out and never think twice because my safety and my children’s safety is priority. So why do we stay? It’s the same question many of you asked me that echoes in my head all the time.
I often would hear of a friend of a friend who was hit by her husband….personally before he came home from battle, I would think “What the hell is she staying there for? All you would see is my ass and elbows out the damn door!” After enduring so much the past four years? That perspective has changed drastically. I don’t know whether its the counseling or doctors telling me “Eh, they all do that- just avoid the triggers, walk away when they begin boiling over and know that often times they don’t realize they do it.” that is keeping me here because I am permanently scarred for life with bad medical advice? Or is it because that small glimpses of our husbands the way they used to be keeps us hanging on to my thin lifeline desperately?
I do know this…a few weeks back, my husband suddenly turned into a monster I had never seen before. It was over something silly and stupid….he really really hurt me. Physically, I was hurt, but emotionally, I was absolutely devastated he could ever do that. I kept questioning myself….was it my fault? Could I have prevented the situation somehow? What did I do? Never once during that 24-hour time frame after the incident, did I ever stop to think it was all him. It wasn’t me… there was nothing I could have done to prevent it. When he looked at me, it wasn’t him. It was like this dark, evil, shadowy thing had taken him over. I had never seen this side of him, and that part scared me to death.
Talking to other spouses, I knew that this was not acceptable. It just leaves you in a stupor asking, “What in the hell just happened?”. I know it’s very easy to say, “Get out, run and never look back”. It’s easier for family members to turn a blind eye when it comes to needing help, and even more so for people to lay all this advice on you when they haven’t been in your shoes. I won’t give you that spiel of “Call the 1-800 domestic abuse hotline-they can help you.” because many of you told me you had the numbers. I will say this….protect yourselves first. I forgave, but I haven’t forgotten. I learned a lesson and now am more cautious and definitely more aware of his anger. If you can’t stop to think of anyone else but him, look at all the murder-suicides happening all over the United States. Our veterans didn’t learn to half ass do anything, especially in combat, so when their anger gets to that point…they can seriously be a danger to you, your children and themselves. After that incident a few weeks ago, my perspective has totally changed about my husband and what goes on behind closed doors of PTSD homes. Not everyone is going through this, but there are many.
Do make sure you protect yourselves…..have a flight plan in case you must leave. Make a private account, and slip a little money in there. I myself have started this, and although it kills me to take just a little and move it because we are on a very tight budget….I know that something may happen and I will need that to get the hell out of Dodge! I had a friend offer a place to stay, I have 911 programmed in my phone. I make sure I have a phone charger in my car, and my battery is always charged on my cell. The car has a spare key that I hid, the gas tank is filled up constantly so it’s never past 3/4 of a tank.
I don’t have all the answers to give you…I am not a professional and don’t try to be. All I can give you in return is my story, validate your feelings of not wanting to leave or give up, and tell you what I would do or my plans if this happens again. I read on a domestic violence website that if you question whether you are or aren’t in an abusive relationship, then you are in one. How does one tell the difference between abusiveness and PTSD? So much isn’t our veteran’s faults, and some of it is. It’s like a constant mental tug of war for spouses like us who are in these situations. I totally understand where many of you are coming from.
Check out Familyofavet.com. I quite often visited her site at the very beginning because she was really all we had for spouses to go to for some answers. She has a section on PTSD and Domestic Violence. I also came across this article.
I saw an episode on Oprah with this author on it. How funny that at the time, I thought to myself, “THANK GOD this hasn’t happened to us.” I hope this makes you all feel somewhat better that I do know how you feel and I have walked in those shoes before….all I can say is, sometimes you just have to get out. There is only so much love, so much support you can give our combat PTSD veteran’s and still not be enough for it to keep them inflicting their anger upon their closest ally. Don’t stop yourself because of what he might do to himself, you have to think of yourself foremost. Counseling and inpatient programs have helped some of the anger physical outbursts here, but I just never know….and we never know when the battle will escalate to the point where someone is seriously injured or dies. That is the first thought that needs to be in our heads……
I receive e-mails sometimes from combat PTSD veterans themselves, which gives me a chance to see the other side of it. One veteran told me that he doesn’t know what happens to him, and that he never could figure out how the anger and rage would come and go without him even realizing it. He told me that Eminem’s and Rhianna’s song Love the Way You Lie best portrayed how he felt most of the time. He has given me permission to copy his e-mail and post it here without his name:
” I hear the song Eminem sings with that chick and I swear it’s my life USM. I love my wife, and I don’t know how I can be this way and not know it. The part where he says “Cause when its going good/ its going great/ I’m Superman with the wind in his bag/she’s Louis Lane/But when its bad it’s awful I feel so ashamed/I snap/Who’s that dude/I don’t even know his name/I laid hands on her/I’ll never stoop so low again/I guess I don’t know my own strength.” It’s not that I intentionally set out to be some ass it just happens. I get lost and I remember nothing. It’s like I am asleep and then get woke up. She thinks I am crazy. I just wanted you to know I read your blog and try to gain some ideas of what I am putting her through. She left me but I am trying to fix myself so I can get her back-she is all that mattered to me but my PTSD is smothering everything and everyone in my life. I am too much of a p&s*y to kill myself but I see some of our brothers do it and I totally get why. You say you live in hell. I get that. I cant imagine what we do to our families. I just want you to know we are proof that hell exists in our world and no matter what we do, Iraq will always be there haunting us for the rest of our lives pulling us under. I wish I could just make it go away”
Wow, huh? I wanted to include that because I am trying to be fair to the veteran’s as well since so many are reading my blog. On the other hand, for you veterans out there….we have to protect ourselves first. We may love you to the ends of the world, but if you hurt us…..we often can’t protect ourselves from you. If any of your hell is close to that, then surely you can understand why we have to find our ways out.
If anyone else would like to comment, share a story or advice…please feel free. I may have a big mouth, but never all the answers. Sometimes in subjects like this, it hits so close to home that I just don’t have the right words or know what to say…..
Hurting Inside for All of Us,