I thought that I would put down in words what it is like to be on the outside looking in at the affects of PTSD on people you love ….”the mother-in-laws view. I was privileged to be at the births of all my grand babies. The love was instant and the bond grew daily for each and every one of them. I was always welcomed in their lives no matter where they were. I have spent hours with them, working on projects, reading, making posters for their Dad’s return. Sharing in their excitement and anticipation each time Jason returned from deployment. Sadly with each deployment I saw what they could not. I saw a sadder Dad return, visibly broken in some way.
I wasn’t really aware of what PTSD as it applied to returning soldiers. I as many, thought Jason was just going through a “readjustment period”. He would do everything he could to appear happy. It was in his eyes that you could see the sadness. He had lost that twinkle. The sadness and isolation he would fall into got worse with each deployment. The last one to Afghanistan truly stole his heart and soul.
I can remember the excitement everyone was feeling about his return. Jason would write to Elizabeth and say he was counting down the days to get home to her and the kids. He missed all of them so much and he wanted nothing more than to be there with them and be a family again. I received emails from him and he was like a little kid …just couldn’t wait to be with all of them again.
I was in California prior to Jason’s return. I made T-shirts for the kids to wear the big day. Posters were going to be made. The “Welcome Home” sign for the garage had arrived. All the planning and preparations were on schedule. Jason returned with great fanfare provided by the kids and Elizabeth told me later on the phone that when Jason stepped off the bus she could feel and see in his face that something was terribly, terribly wrong.
The wonderful, happy and loving man that went away for 7 months returned a very broken and damaged man. E had sent me the pictures of him and I could see it too. The twinkle was gone, Jason had this deep blank look on his face and he looked troubled and sad.
Jason retreated into himself and isolated himself from everyone which he had done before but this time was different. Hearts were broken and a sadness took over the family like I have never seen before. I went out to California to find Jason to be standoffish, non communicative and agitated. The laughs the giggles the rough and tumble Dad was still somewhere else.
This was heart breaking for me. I wanted to do something to make it right. I have always tried to be there for the kids , Jason and Elizabeth and help them when they needed help. This time was different. I had to stand back and let things go and not do anything but watch and wait.
Elizabeth had her suspicions that Jason was suffering from PTSD and suggested I read up on it. I read everything I could about soldiers returning from war. What the symptoms for PTSD might be and how love ones should deal with it. Sadly Jason fell into each and every symptom and with Elizabeth’s amazing fortitude and drive to get Jason to seek help, he was finally diagnosed with PTSD/TBI.
Jason had been hiding what he had gone through, how he had been injured and he was bottling it all up. The truth was out and now the healing process had to begin.
As a mother and a grand-mother you want happiness for your children. When that happiness is threatened or attacked you what only to do everything to make it better. PTSD doesn’t allow that. You have to step back and watch and keep your distance. The fight is something that the soldier and his family have to find the strength to endure and make better. I have watched , listened , cried and prayed from the outside only to be frustrated and helpless by what was happening to my children
I will admit there were times when I felt uncomfortable being at the E and Jason’s house. I would go and find a place outside and cry. I would end up staying up all night because the thoughts in my head wouldn’t stop long enough for me to sleep. Through all this I just felt strongly that I needed to be there for the kids and for Elizabeth. For nothing more than to watch the kids so Elizabeth and Jason could be together without interruption to plan how they were going to attack this demon that had entered their lives. The two of them were not going to give up. They made the decision to fight the demon and fight it together.
I have been around for awhile and seen marriages come and go over the simplest obstacles. I am not the best example of “Happily Ever After”. I think I did a good job raising my kids though. They have made me so proud, and the one thing that just fills me with happiness is that they all love each other very much. The bond that they have is something I could never have imagined but I am grateful for every day. They all have compassion, love and support for each other which is the most prized thing.
Elizabeth and Jason have had rougher times than any other couple that I have ever known. I went through some nasty stuff but that was just a misfortune compared to the pain and suffering that Elizabeth and Jason have endured over the years. The courage and love that is between these two couldn’t be made up if you tried. This is what is keeping them both afloat. Jason has taken amazing steps to fight his PTSD and Elizabeth has stood by and supported him every step of the way. Many times at unsolicited opinions and ridicule of others.
I have listened, cried, and a couple of times went off because I couldn’t keep things bottled up inside anymore. Did it help …no. If anything it just made things worse. So you are probably asking why did you do it? I can only say that I was trying to protect my daughter and my grandchildren. I had hoped that I could take away some of the hurt and pain that Elizabeth was feeling just for a bit and make that helpless feeling that I was experiencing maybe go away.
As many of you know I do spend a great deal of time with the Tristan, Colby and Peyton. I love them more than anything in this world and I would do anything for them. Having the privilege of seeing them whenever I want and being with them regularly is a blessing and makes my life brighter. I have been able to be there with the kids when they are sad about Jason and worried that Dad just isn’t feeling good today. This is my way of helping them and helping me cope with the frustration of not being able to fix things.
I think of Jason as my own son and I feel the pain of his illness deeply. I support him fully and want only the best for him. Whatever is asked of me to help him find peace within himself I am here. Jason and Elizabeth are a beautiful couple and they have 3 extraordinary children and deserve to find their happiness again. I know that the battle is far from over when Jason returns from treatment and we will all need to continue to battle with him . One thing is for sure, I have faith in both Jason and Elizabeth that those days will come again. I hope and pray that the smiles and giggles will return and the dark days will be less and less.
I carry your heart with me. I carry it in my heart. I am never without it, Anywhere I go you go, my dear…… e.e. cummings