Aftermath and Lessons Learned:
Emotionally spent, my wife and I sat down and talked about all that had happened. How I made myself emotionally inaccessible to her and our daughter, the obsessive behavior, the anger coming to a slow boil, everything. We decided I needed to make a list of things to watch out for and a list of reminders to stay in the here and now. I thought about it for a day and then typed it up on the computer. It sits next to the TV in the bedroom and I read it every day. I use it to remind myself of what my real priorities in life really are: My wife and my daughter. One of the things I discovered when I was thinking this all over was that I started really deteriorating at an accelerated pace when I stopped blogging. So, here I am - blogging my heart out.
This next part I hope fosters a lot of comments and discussion, especially in the PTSD community:
One of the major observations that my wife made during all of this was that she had to 'emotionally re-traumatize' me to get through to me. That may sound worse than it is, so let me explain. Dani said she thinks that the emotional trauma I experienced over in Iraq rewired my brain to only take notice of extreme emotions and emotional hurt. She had learned through this experience that the only way she can get through to me when I am submerged in my PTSD is to say something extreme or hurtful to snap me back to the here and now. She hates this more than anything. She can't stand that she has to hurt me to help me and is frustrated that she can't find another way to get through to me. I know we can't be alone in this. If you haven't thought about this before, think it over. Discuss it with your loved ones. Discuss it with each other. Discuss it with your doctors. There has to be some precedent that this has been addressed by someone somewhere. Let's work together to find a better solution to this - for us and our loved ones.
The Wake-Up Call:
When I woke up one day in early February, my wife noticed I was in a bad mood. I proceeded to have a falling out with a close friend over text message and spun into a hot mess. I spent the rest of the day asleep or near catatonic. Dani couldn't get through to me. I slept until the late evening hours. Dani fed Caley and put her to bed. She then woke me up and asked me to come help with the dishes. We finished the dishes in silence. When the kitchen was cleaned up, Dani asked me to come out on the porch. She sat me down with a mug of coffee and asked me if I remembered what we had talked about doing if I ever decided to go sprinting down the rabbit hole again.
That question got my attention. What we had agreed upon was this: If I ever got to the point that my PTSD could emotionally traumatize our daughter, I had to leave until I got my life back together. I asked her how bad it was and she laid it out for me. She said she lost me to my PTSD right after Caley was born. She said that it was about March 2011 that she started to worry that I was headed in the wrong direction. She apparently expressed this concern on multiple occasions but I didn't hear her. She couldn't get through the trauma to reach me. She said the breaking point came with the fallout after a very stressful holiday season. She said it seemed like I was so obsessed about being a good provider that lost sight of everything else, including her and Caley. She said it was heart-breaking watching me work at being a good husband and loving father. She said when I am stable, I am the most amazing father any child could ask for and a very attentive husband. She followed that up with, "That's not who I see standing in front of me now".
*OH SHIT!* The fog lifted and I saw clearly for the first time in months. I looked at the hurt and concern on my wife's face and knew it was worse than she was saying. A little bit of me withered and died inside. It was surreal. I couldn't believe this was happening again. How did I get here? I looked back on the past months and the things I remembered clearly were the angry moments. The only lasting memories I had that gave me daily healing were the memories I had with my daughter. I remembered every little detail. What scared the hell out of me, was the memories felt like I was looking through clear glass, shouting feelings I felt but couldn't express. Caley was trying her best to console her distraught father.
The tears streaked down my face and I sagged in guild and utter anguish. I looked at my wife and I told her that I loved her with all of my heart. The look I got back strangely surprised me. It was one of relief, as if expressing how glad she was to had finally gotten through to me.
Stay Tuned for The Danger of Obsessive Behavior, Pt. 3
As I continue my life with PTSD, I will share my challenges and discoveries on this blog.