July 28th, 2006 I got the call that my husband was severely injured by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). He was six weeks from coming home after being stop-lossed for his second deployment to Iraq. We spent 20 months rehabilitating and medically boarding at Walter Reed. It was a roller coaster for a very long time.
Many people don’t know what it is like to live with a severely injured warrior so I asked my readers what they would like to know. Below are their questions with my answers.
“What did you do to relieve stress or step away?” The first couple of years I rarely took care of myself. I was taking care of his wounds and emotional needs and it was rare that I did anything for myself. I remember my mom came to visit us at Walter Reed a few weeks after he was injured. She treated me to a massage at a place across the street. The entire time I was laying there I couldn’t relax or pull myself away from what I needed to do for my husband. Once we moved away from Walter Reed I realized that I needed to do one thing for myself once a week. I ordered a subscription to People magazine and on Thursdays I would sit in the tub and read other people’s drama and have a glass of wine. Now that things are more stable I got to the gym twice a week to burn off the stress.
“Who was there for you when you needed support?” At first my friends and family tried to be there but shortly after my friends slowly slipped away. I have one person that is still my friend after all of this that was there before. My mom was a major supporter of everything. She helped me at Walter Reed, packed our house when we had to sell it due to the amount of time his recovery took and she just listened. There was a few times when I was so angry about our situation that I took it out on her. She was always there no matter what and still is.
“How do you deal with the mood swings and irritability that comes with it all?” This was one of the toughest things I had to deal with. My husband was angry and cranky due to his brain injury, PTSD and uncontrollable pain. In the beginning we just survived day-to-day, then years down the road he sunk in to a deep dark depression. He was always grouchy and depressed. Our communication became non-existent. I learned to walk on eggshells and try everything in my ability to not set him off. We went to counseling and that helped a lot. In the end he had to find the right meds and treatment that helped with the debilitating pain and the dark cloud that followed him. I realized that we had to talk it out and remove him from the situation that was causing the issues. I had to constantly remind myself that it wasn’t me he was upset at, it was his injury.
“How did you help other people understand not just PTSD but your husband and what did you tell them they could do for him that would help him without being overly sympathetic or feeling sorry for him.” The biggest way I educated others was by talking about it in person or by blogging. We never wanted anyone to feel sorry for us. I think we minimized what was really going on a lot to help others not feel bad. I don’t think this is the right thing to do but it worked for us. We tried our hardest to not let the PTSD ruin what used to be enjoyable times. We weren’t always successful but we would just try again next time.
“I think a question that most of our younger caregivers want to know even though they might not ask is how do you face the reality that your care giving work may last 20-30 years or more with ever increasing duties and limited or very different marital rewards compared to what most people expect? More simply how do you face the thankless, long, lonely road ahead?” This is something I struggle with. I know my husbands’ injuries will not get better they will only get worse. We have been told to expect for him to show signs of dementia by the age of 40, he is going to be 35 this year. His arthritis where his legs were ripped and broken will continue to grow. He was in his late twenties when he was injured. He may not be able to work forever and I might not be able to either. We are just trying to prepare for our future now by saving money and we are doing our best to enjoy each year as much as we can. I try to think realistically about our future but also don’t dwell on the possible grave situation we may be dealt. I have to remember that I might need to ask for help in the future of caring for my husband.
Cheryl Gansner lives in Tennessee with her wounded warrior, Bryan and their two dogs. She has a bachelor’s degree in Social Work and works for Operation Homefront’s Wounded Warrior Wives Program. Bryan and Cheryl have been married for seven years and continue advocating for wounded warrior families.
Blog address www.wifeofawoundedsoldier.com email email@example.com