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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Day 29 of National PTSD Awareness Month
When Bob got home from Vietnam in August 1966, he weighed 119lbs. He's 5'11". The first night he was home, a loud smack woke me. Bob was a few feet up in the air. I could see between him and the bed. He made way less noise when he landed. I was impressed, but I had no idea what it meant.
He flicked cigarette butts everywhere, too, in the house. He'd look shocked and say, "Sorry! I've been living in a tent." I thought it was pretty funny.
One day a big palmetto bug was inside and I started shreiking "Kill it! Kill it!" Bob picked it up and put it outside, and said to me, "Patience, I've seen enough things killed." It really made me think.
I still had no idea what he had endured. He mostly told funny stories about Vietnam, Mo'fuck the mongoose biting him when he wouldn't share his coffee and flying on missions with them. Stealing things from the R&U compound so the his unit had stuff to trade, the ambulance full of ladies of the night, his buddy, Jerry, getting stuck overnight in a whore house...
It wasn't till he was writing Chickenhawk that I learned details of what he had lived through. That was why I decided to write my book, Recovering, so other women could give their vets some slack if they knew what they had been through.
My plan was to help women understand and fix their vets, but luckily I found out about 12 step programs by accident. One nurse I interviewed who was running a Vet Center said the Alanon pattern of detaching with love would help.
Then I saw a Hazelden daily meditation book for Adult Children of Alcoholics, Days of Healing, Days of Joy, by Earnie Larsen and Carol Hegarty Larsen. Wow! I thought. I have got to check this out. So many vets are drunks. This will help their kids. So I looked into more ACoA books.
There was a list of ACoA characteristics which started with "Adult Children of Alcoholics do not know what normal is." I almost fell over because adult wives of vets with PTSD do not know what normal is either. I can't tell you how many times I wondered if it was normal to want your husband to say I love you. Was it normal to want hugs? I really couldn't tell anymore. That is what got me going to an independent ACoA meeting.
That was in 1987.
At the time I could not go 100 yards in the car with Bob without telling him how to drive. I believed that he drove the way he did to intentionally piss me off. Everything was about me. I personalized everything and I misunderstood everything. I was always pissed off or depressed. If something good happened it was about f-ing time and it wasn't going to last so why be happy?
I know I was hard to live with, but I thought I was fine (haha) and Bob was f*cked up, so I often told him so, because I thought he's want to know! I found help in the 12 steps. Other women have found other kinds of help, but I think one of the most important parts of recovery for the family and veteran is to focus on yourself. If you're the vet, get help, work on you. That's your job and your duty. If you're the spouse find help and support, so he can be in pain without you trying to fix it, and work on yourself. That's your job and your duty. Sometimes it does not work out, but often if you work at it, your marriage can turn from a battleground into a sanctuary, not a quiet cold sanctuary, either, but one that is also filled with laughter and hope, like ours is.
Tomorrow will be my last post of the month. I will try to post once a week from now on. If you go to patiencemason dot blogspot dot com you will be able to follow my posts by email, since I finally found out how to add that to my blog.

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