11/10/2012 by syrbal-labrys
A bit more than a year ago, my husband of more than three decades came home from war. From the Viet Nam War. Yes, he was right “here” all these years….and yet, not. Just before my late October birthday last year, the PTSD he had been denying for all our time together blossomed forth like a volcano in his life. All the pains he had hidden from himself burst forth like a damn bursting.
And he fought it. He fought it by trying to tell himself it wasn’t the war, it wasn’t his traumatic childhood….it was his marriage. Because, you see, he could not change his childhood or eliminate a war long over; but a WIFE…oh, now there was an objective that could be reached and effectively neutralized! He announced that he didn’t love me, never loved me, and didn’t want to be married and never should have been married. He wanted the love he had lost as a very young man just returned from Viet Nam; he wanted the long decades to vanish like Cinderella’s coach.
So, in this agony, this was how he struck at me. I became very still inside, in a way I never have before. If I reacted wrongly, struck back in my own pain, all would be destroyed and lost, including the man. My only ally was my eldest son, and as the first stuttering days after the initial verbal bomb blast went by, we tried to formulate a plan. I, too, was a veteran. I know what PTSD is and knew I had been looking at it for decades; I have my very own milder case and was in trouble now as more and more of my own triggers were hit. The enticement to simply go up in some violent display was almost overwhelming.
But my son is wise. He suggested a way to survive and see if healing had a chance. If I could get a bit of distance, a haven from my own raging frustration and my husband’s emotional whirlpool — my Scylla and his Charybdis, the marriage might live to sail safely away to another day. So, I left my marital home. On Veterans’ Day last year, I walked out the door and crossed a concrete patio to a small building once a garage.
My son had lived here since his medical discharge five years before. Now we switched places. He and his pets took over in the house, I moved my books, my art, my rugs,my favorite chairs, my computer, my bed, my clothing, my ferrets to this small haven. I dismantled facilities in my Honey House and took the propane ring so I could cook in my new quarters. I exiled myself. I wept in the darkness that night, alone. My husband was stunned and confused; some peculiar cognitive dissonance seemed to grip him, he didn’t understand how his saying he wanted to be unwed would make me actually GO away! I stayed in my haven, rarely entering the marital home even by day when nobody was there. Only special occasions drew me inside in the first months.
Yule, my favorite holiday, was peculiar. I cooked a very good meal and made gifts, even for the husband whose actions were agonizing me. We were careful and polite and did not hurt each other. Good food, good wine, and good manners are NOT always wasted. But the fights did come. He would come out and be angry, I would demand he leave my space. But I would follow him back to his space and take a verbal shot. Depression stalked us both. Spring came and I worked on the devastated yard, winter was ice storms and destruction last year. And I nursed the husband who fell on the ice and had shoulder surgery as a result. May was the cruelest month, it was HIS anniversary month. For his lava flow of emotions had actually begun in May of 2011 when a motorcycle accident triggered memories of war.
But just as I was bereft of hope, it got better and by July it felt like a blissful second honeymoon. And I waited, heart in throat…for the other shoe to drop. And it did, by August we bitterly fought again, he had stalled in therapy and was facing yet more shoulder surgery in September. We both had nightmares. I valued my solitary space to wake and scream aloud to break the sensation of tension in my own head.
And now, winter is coming on again fast. I am pulling together the last tasks of the gardens. I cook for the entire family, and I have my nights in my big marital bed alone. He sleeps, shoulder healing, in a raised and ramped bed in the house now run mostly by my son and his lovely bride to be. But healing is happening. We did not fly apart a year ago, and I do not believe we shall. I may live here a long, long time in my hermit’s haven; but he comes to sleep on weekends, and for movies or tea on weeknights. We talk, we tentatively share. He came home from war after 43 years of suspended animation in PTSD hell. It is almost Veterans’ Day again, and he is healing. I have endured. We shall continue to endure in love and trust, however imperfect and human.