WACU May Have Made A Difference
The struggles of a caregiver can be never ending. In my situation it became hard to relate to anyone. Not only have I experienced caring for someone with PTSD. I experienced the trauma of having my husband be missing and ultimately dying. Geoff left March 31st. He didn’t say goodbye, he didn’t give me any warning, all that we found was a note saying he had no choice but to kill himself. Three weeks of hell were faced by me and both of our families who were desperately searching for him. Only to have it end the most horrifying way possible. The demons that tormented my husband that followed him home from the service; those demons took over and caused him to do the unthinkable because he couldn’t live with the pain any longer.
April 20th, 2016, I was contacted by a police officer. I was hopeful that my husband had been found safe, however when he asked me to sit I knew what he was going to say. “We found the truck…” He said (I started to pray that the truck was found abandoned) “ …and he was in it”. This marked the end of the three week search for my husband, and the beginning of a terrifying journey for me.
My Marine husband had struggled with PTSD. He was one hundred percent VA disabled and I had been recognized as his full time caregiver by the VA. Caring for someone with PTSD, especially as severe a case as Geoff’s, was an exhausting job. They need so much from their caregiver that it consumes you. You become isolated from other people because they just don’t understand. They don’t understand that you not only must remember everything you need to leave the house, or that you remember to pack everything for your kids, but you also need to remember to check that your husband remembers to take what he needs. You aren’t responsible for your appointments but your spouse’s. He doesn’t think about his own safety, so it’s your job to keep a watchful eye on him and to keep him safe. Possessions that are lost are your responsibility, so you need to know where everything is at all times. You go to sleep alone because your husband is too scared to be anywhere near you when he sleeps. And on bad days you find that he has been sleeping downstairs with a loaded shotgun and the doors and windows barricaded. You stay awake all hours of the night to argue, you beg and plead for them to take their medication, to put away the gun, to sleep, to eat something, to just try one day to talk to someone other than you. You reassure them that they aren’t crazy, that you do love them, that they are good people and that everything is going to be ok and you’re going to get through this, even though some days you don’t know if you’ll make it through one more sleepless night holding another person together. You miss family functions, you lose friends and ultimately you lose yourself because this illness is so consuming. As a caregiver you become isolated because people don’t understand your struggle. How could you tell them? How do you explain your life and the load you carry to a “normal” person without sounding crazy yourself? How do you explain you’ve missed a party because your husband is afraid to leave the house or because he thinks the hosts are somehow out to get him? Or even worse, because you’ve had to check him into the hospital for mental help?
What does this have to do with Warriors And Caregivers United (WACU)? Because of my husband’s death and the life I was living leading up to his death. I find it incredibly hard to relate to anyone. And honestly a lot of times I don’t want to. I don’t want to relive my past or feel pressure to explain why I am the way I am or do the things I do. I don’t want the looks when someone hears what happened to my husband, and I don’t want to answer the questions about how sick he was. Not because I don’t want others to understand, but sometimes there just is no way to help anyone comprehend what I’ve lived through. Sometimes my anxiety is so bad I just don’t want to be around anyone. Sometimes it’s just easier for me to keep to myself and my small circle of friends than to branch out. Sometimes I look at strangers and almost get angry. Sometimes I’m ok and sometimes I’m not. Caring for my husband and then losing my husband have changed me.
In the beginning I was very leery of going to any WACU function. I didn’t see how someone like me would fit in because my husband is dead. I am not a warrior and I am no longer a caregiver. But as I attend these events more and more I realize that I love getting those invites. It’s not even about what they are doing at the event. Just being around people who understand is healing and refreshing for me. I don’t have to say a word or answer a question. I’m not looked at like a weirdo, or like I have social problems. I am seen as me, I’m understood without saying a word. For a few hours I fit in with other people who are all facing the same feelings and issues. For a few hours I can look at other families, and see that their kids are doing great and that helps me see that my kids can do great too. For me just going to a WACU event is healing and the opportunity is something I’m very grateful for. I wish my husband and I had found WACU before he died.
I truly believe that if he had found a place where he belonged and had met the people here that things may have been different. Maybe someone would have seen his struggle and helped him in a way I couldn’t. Maybe having another caregiver to talk to who I knew understood would have helped me. In my situation there are a million what-ifs. My point is, I am grateful that I have been welcomed into the WACU family and I hope that other people will soon find us and experience the love and acceptance that I have.