Destructive thing that PTSD is, it has made its home in our lives and we have no choice but to live with it. Usually when I mention PTSD I talk about it in terms of its effects on Donald or the family in general. I don't do a lot of reflecting about it in my own life. I don't ignore it; I can't, but neither do I dwell on it because if I did, I'd spend way more time crying than I am comfortable with. I'd rather be the one handing out the hankies than the one using them.
During a brief, hour and a half of doing laundry this past Saturday I met someone who, in the following days, has caused me to do a lot of reflecting about PTSD. When I do laundry, typically I just dump it in quickly and then leave. I'm not good at chit chat with total strangers and don't have much interest in trying. Really nice for a pastor/chaplain's wife, eh? I had barely added soap and quarters when someone at the end of the washers started asking me questions. I don't mind if someone else initiates conversation; I'm just not so good at it myself. My boys were playing with her boys (she has four plus a girl!), who turned out to be the kids with the spare skate boards. I generally manage to keep all the kids straight as they descend like locusts on the Cheese Nips but trying to sort out all the parents, scattered across a really huge campground, is more difficult. I still have no idea how she knew we were the parents of the boys with whom her boys were playing.
It didn't take long to piece our stories together and discover both our families are traveling under similar auspices: a family dealing with PTSD (her husband went headfirst through a Humvee), schooling on the road and love of travel. She introduced me to the term road school which is an excellent descriptor of what we do and there is a website devoted to it! Who knew? We swapped stories and there were tears on both sides, which shocked me. We also swapped blog addresses. I told her about Donald's service dog and gave her a brochure so she can contact the company. I also told her about a retreat for wives of service members with PTSD that I am attending in Colorado Springs in May and I'm hoping she'll get there.
What this brief encounter showed me is that in nearly three and a half years since Donald's injury I have never once met another spouse who lives with PTSD. I've never talked with anyone who could actually validate, empirically, what I think and feel about living with PTSD. I was stunned to find out that many of the things I live with as my new "normal" are, in fact, "normal" for what I live with. I hadn't really given the retreat too much thought because it will require conversation with strangers! Now I have thoroughly researched it and I am quite looking forward to the seminars, which sound like they were prepared with me in mind. In actuality, they were. Duh!
My point? I've spent the last few years focusing on my husband's healing and worrying about the effect of all this on my boys. I've not given much thought to my own healing since it doesn't seem as prominent an issue. It's the old "Mom doesn't get to get sick," right? Maybe I'm not sick but I bet I have cold symptoms. And maybe I have not been treating the symptoms in the best way. Here's to hoping the retreat shows me a better way. And Lori, thank you for being so outgoing! You are right, military wives need to jump in quickly because we move around too much. Have fun at the Grand Canyon!