PTSD’s Other Half

June 2016

I can’t tell him that I understand, or that I know what it feels like. Because I don’t. I have no idea. I have never been at war, or had anything to do with the Armed Forces. So for me to naively remark that I understand, in a feeble attempt to comfort him, would possibly be the most stupid comment to make.

What I do understand is that he needs help. I can see the pain and anguish, not only in his eyes, but in his whole demeanour. His tense shoulders, his furtive glances franticly trying to assess his surroundings for possible threats. His inherent road to self destruction, through fear, his thirst for alcohol in an attempt to subdue the thoughts and feelings that have taken over all rationality.

And here I am, feeling useless, redundant in his quest for comfort, even sorry for myself. Then immediate guilt for having these feelings. After all, I’m the one who’s supposed to be there for him, we’re a team, a unit, we should be able to work through anything together. But not this, this is to big for us to deal with alone, which is why I now find myself, 4 months pregnant, lonely and lost, without my man, my hero, by my side.

It took a lot of persuading for him to go, whether he thought he could handle things himself, or was afraid of change, or didn’t believe there was any chance of recovery, I don’t know. It took a few false starts, backwards steps, but he finally took the plunge and made that phone call to ask for help. Something I know most men would find daunting.

For me, it was both a happy and sad time. A huge wave of relief that he was finally going to be properly looked after, by people who actually knew what they were doing. And also scary, that he was moving out of the house, away from where I could keep an eye on him. Can you ever fully trust somebody else to care for someone you love as much as you do? I had to put my faith in a team of people I’d never met.

As soon as he’d left, I wanted him back. I didn’t want to fall asleep alone, to wake up alone. I missed his snoring, his annoying habits, having somebody to nag over silly things like leaving the toilet seat up!

I keep reminding myself every day that he needs to be there, I know I am not capable of giving him the care and attention he needs, and I know that he does not want me to be the person looking after him. He feels guilty over the way he is, he told me that he doesn’t feel like a real man at times, he feels like a failure because he can’t provide for his family. I wish he could see that it is an illness, that none of it is his fault whatsoever, that the people who care about him don’t see him as a failure, we see him as someone who has gone through unbelievably hard times lately, as well as having served his country for many years, the ugly scars now showing themselves through mental illness.

The man I fell in love with is still there, he’s just a little lost inside himself lately.

He has so much going on in his life, children he feels so much guilt over leaving, money worries, people he trusted stealing his livelihood from under his nose, his sick mother, his annoying pregnant girlfriend, to name a few. It’s no wonder he became ill under all the strains he’s been under lately. The PTSD has always been there, he just tried his best to keep it quiet, but the nightmares were never far away, becoming more and more frequent, to the stage where he no longer felt safe to go to sleep. So he turned to alcohol in order to ‘pass out’ for a few hours a night. It soon became a ritual, the cans were being opened earlier and earlier each day, the slurred speech became a normality. He wasn’t a bad drunk, at times he was very lively and full of optimism, bouncing great ideas around, making plans for the future. It usually disappeared the next morning, replaced by the headaches, the depression, the reality.

He lost everything overnight when he made the simple mistake of trusting his friends and business partners. Actually, I take that back – trusting people should not be a mistake, it’s natural to trust those close to you. But that trust was hugely abused and his life was pulled from beneath his feet, his job, the company and reputation he had worked so hard to build up from humble beginnings was gone. We tried to fight it, in actual fact, we were days away from winning, taking everything back, but we simply ran out of money to pay the lawyers, and him being the type of guy he is, wanted to make sure that everything was done by the book so there could be no doubts cast on him. You see, this was not the first time he had lost everything. It must have felt like history repeating itself, which is why he wanted to do everything fairly, to give his ex business partners a chance to right the wrongs they had done. He did not want any negative press surrounding the business, as he learned from his past venture that some people will believe anything they read from a disgruntled ex-employee.

He has dedicated the last few years of his life to helping others, assisting an Armed Forces charity alongside his business, helping other veterans into employment, raising much needed funds. It was his way of thanking this charity for being there for him at the start. How ironic that he is now needing the support of these such charities. Unfortunately, it is no longer that same charity who are helping him, the moment his business was illegally taken from him, they saw that they had no further use for him if he wasn’t able to make them any money or raise awareness for their cause. The company has now been taken over by a profit making business, and has lost it’s main objective of helping veterans into work. They laid off the two veterans that my partner was supporting, jobs that took a great deal of courage for these guys to do in their circumstances, an offer of employment when nobody else was willing to take on such people because of their ongoing problems. This is another source of guilt for him, he feels as though he has let these two down when they were just getting back on their feet.

Unfortunately, when they took over my partners company, they forgot to take over the business loans that he had secured to fund the venture, loans which were in his own name, not the companies, as he wanted to focus the company on donating profits to the charity. He is now left with over £15k worth of business loans, and has had his only source of income taken away from him, as well as his only mode of transport enabling him to do such work, and his computer with all of his business accounts and information on. Basically, left with nothing but the debt.

So now begins his journey to recovery. I do not know what this will involve, I do not know what kind of timescale we are looking at. But I do know that I will be there for him, if and when he needs me, in any possible way I can. I recently read on a blog site a piece of advice that stuck in my mind when researching ways I could help him. It said to remind yourself that in an emergency situation on an aircraft, when the oxygen masks fall down, that you should always put your own mask on first so that you are better equipped to help others who may be in need. It goes on to say that you should seek help and support for yourself first, in order to be able to help your partner. So my aim is to do as much research as I can into PTSD support, while doing my best to look after myself and my growing bump.

He has already made enormous progress in the last two weeks, whether he realises it or not. He seems clearer minded and focused on moving forward. Amazingly, he already has ideas in place to raise funds and dedicate a venture to the charity that are currently supporting him, and for reasons beyond my belief, he still wishes to donate some of those funds to SSAFA, the charity that turned their back on him. A selfless act that just reminds me again of who he was when we first met, he’s already half way home 🙂