Tuesday, February 5, 2008

What Defines You???

Dear Aunt Babz,

Hi, I really don't know what to do?

Here is the situation.I have been wanting to join the military for many years now and my husband
keeps making excuses for waiting and stupid me I have listened. Now I am 12years into this marriage with four small children and he has been diagnosed
with severe post traumatic stress syndrome.

His mental health professional has advised me that it is not a good idea for me to join but I still want to no matter the cost to him. I feel like I have taken care of him long enough and now it is time to think about me for a change. I am not worried about my children they are still young enough to adapt. And he has said if I go he will support me fully,but he has said that in the past with any thing I under take and then have to quit because of him. I want this, and need this for myself. Am I being selfish in wanting to make something of myself and just going for it or should I put my ambitions once again to secure my husbands sanity?

Please I just need to hear what someone has to say outside
the situation.


Dear Anonymous,

My heart is divided on how to advise you. On the one hand I think you have been more than self-sacrificing and should do what your heart desires while you still can. On the other, I know I would be a hypocrite because I cannot take that same advice and potentially lose my family.

See, this is not the life that I thought I would live either. It's not bad by any stretch of the imagination; in fact I think it is more rewarding in some cases. But still, it is not where I thought I would be ten years ago. And if I were to tell you to do this, to make this leap which could potentially have a huge down side (not only with your husbands mental health, but with your children and the time you would be able to spend with them, and entering a dangerous job) I would really be quite hypocritical because I couldn't do it myself. I couldn’t do that to my family and potentially lose something I never knew was so great until I found it.

So. I really don’t know how to answer this, other then what ever you choose you need to be able to live with the repercussions (if any). If you feel like you simply cannot live not joining the military, then do it. Your husband did tell you that he would support you, and hold him to it. If you feel like this move is going to rip your family apart and you can’t live without your family, then don’t do it. Sometimes it is better to regret…. Not entirely easy to live with. But sometimes when there are kids involved, it’s better.

I also would caution you to take what your husbands doctors are telling you. They only respond in what is the best care for their patients, and your feelings and life dynamic is not part of that equation. If your husband is going into these non-judgment talks that psychologists love to use (and really there is nothing wrong with this method, it is quite good) then he could be telling your doctor feelings about this kind of move and it could be concerning to the doctor but not necessarily what would happen.

For example, I wouldn’t want my husband to take employment with the police or military. That scares me because it is dangerous, and I am a natural worrywart. If I were in a therapy session spilling out all my feelings on the subject, I would say that I would feel scared and anxious over that decision and that the thoughts of raising my child without a father would keep me up at night. And this is all truth. Doesn’t mean that if my husband was to join either agency that I would be neurotic or distant or self-destructive. But there is the possibility there when you look at the correlation from a psychological standpoint. High anxiety or PTS disorders are synonymous with rash decisions and the inability to make rational choices.

So this is why the doctors will tell you what they do. It is like a warning though, similar to that which they put on the labels of medication. They can only tell you what might happen, not what will. So just keep that in mind, and if you do take this journey be sure that you are watching for triggers that could help warn you if your husband is not receiving this change well.

Some of the signs or “stressors” to watch for include:

- re-experiencing the event. This is the main characteristic of PTSD and it can happen in different ways. Most commonly the person has powerful, recurrent memories of the event, or recur-rent nightmares or flashbacks in which they re-live their distressing experience. The anniversary of the triggering event, or situations which remind them of it, can also cause extreme discomfort.

- Avoidance and emotional numbing . The first occurs when people with PTSD avoid encountering scenarios which may remind them of the trauma. Emotional numbing generally begins very soon after the event. A person with PTSD may withdraw from friends and family, they may lose interest in activities they previously enjoyed and have difficulty feeling emotions, especially those associated with intimacy. Feelings of extreme guilt are also common.

- In rare cases, a person may enter dissociative states, lasting anywhere from a few minutes to several days, during which they believe they are re-living the episode, and behave as if it is happening all over again. This category of symptoms involves changes in sleeping patterns and increased alertness. Insomnia is common and some people with PTSD have difficulty concentrating and finishing tasks. Increased aggression can also result.

- People with PTSD may develop a dependence on drugs or alcohol. They may become depressed. It is not uncommon for another anxiety disorder to be present at the same time as PTSD. As well, dizziness, chest pain, gastrointestinal complaints and immune system problems may be linked to PTSD. These are often treated as self-contained illnesses; the link with PTSD will be revealed only if a patient volunteers information about a traumatic event, or if a doctor investigates a possible link with psychological trauma. Which in this case, he has.

I am sure that you have been told all of this already, but it is important that I included it in case you had never been told anything about your husbands disease. It is very difficult as well to deal with another persons sicknesses and in that you may think about entering a support group or therapy of your own. It could help you discover new things about yourself, your life and what you can do or can’t do for your husband and why. Just a suggestion.

I really hope that you can choose and have everything that you want and desire for an outcome. I hope your husbands mental health improves and that you can both lead the lives of happiness that you are both entitled too. Let us know how you decide, and if you need anything just write.

Good Luck Tara.


Dear Anonymous,

This may the hardest letter I've ever had to address. Why? Well because I can relate completely, as I was in this exact scenario. As well, I can see it from both sides as I've been diagnosed with PTSD with HyperVigilance. I am not in group counseling sessions right now but I do take the meds, Neurontin ( Gabapentin use for PTSD) as well, I see my Doctor once a month.

I know what's going on, I do believe, in your head as well. You feel the need, to be complete, you must do this. To be who you need to be, in life, you need this, huh? Been there, done it.

I do imagine you've weighed everything out? In the event that you've not, I will help play Devils Advocate and throw out some things just from experience;

If you join the Armed Forces, the hardest part, possibly is getting through Basic Training. They will push you till your breaking point. There will be times you will want to fall over dead, feeling like dead may be easier. They will test your endurance and often times, women are pushed almost harder or so it feels. There are no powder puff situations, no tears will get you through it. All those years where you may have been cut some slack because you are a woman are thrown out the door and the exact opposite will happen. Yes, for a woman to make it in the Military, you must be a special breed.

I do believe and it has been proven that women are best under pressure but there will be situations that your sexuality will be thrown in your face. It will be held against you and you will be taunted with it and because of it. There's no turning back either. Those big mean boys will test you too. They know they can and they will, I do promise you that. Nope, there's no turning back once you've signed those papers. Your ass now belongs to the Army, Marines, Navy or Air Force. It's no joke, I'm telling you.

After a forced march, full pack, you'll wish the hell you could just die and get it over with. You'll learn to eat in minutes, shower in less, evacuate, in seconds and forget thinking that your Period will give you permission to go easy. Nope there's no such thing as a handicap or weakness. You will be pushed to your absolute limit and damned if it doesn't seem like you feel singled out just when your...
Aunt Mary comes to visit, if you know what I mean?

Say good-bye to the kids and calling them just when you need them the most. You know those little hugs, the tiny kisses that get you through another day? Kiss them good-bye and forget their goopy grins cause you'll not see them for quite some time. Yes, you will miss countless happenings, new events, recitals, and too many "Firsts," to mention. You'll sit on an Aircraft Carrier wondering how the kids are? You'll be in a Cargo plane, turbulence so hard, you think your teeth will crack if they hit together one more time, thinking about whether or not they are being loved like only you can love them? You'll be on alert to go where ever and not allowed to leave the base, ruck sac packed, waiting to leave and you can't call home because of security. Then when you do write, you can't tell them where you are or what you're doing really as you gotta keep it on the "QT."

The sand is hot, in your crotch rubbing you raw. Your feet are blistered and nobody gives a shit about the fact that it hurts like hell, you gotta push on. The food tastes like crap and there's no running to the Canteen thinking you'll pick up a nice slice of cheesecake when you crave it.

Just stuff to think about. Just from experience.

Maybe think about first joining the National Guard. Here are the requirements. Many service men/women join the Guard after their initial tour of duty. As well, this may afford you to be home but get some service in. Know that in this war time, they can and do ship out the National Guard.

To answer your question, are you being selfish? I don't think the correct word is selfish. I can understand waiting and wanting to be who you need to be. I also know there were so many things I still wanted to do but now am too old. I know that feeling of, "I wish I had," and the old, "I coulda had a career." I must add that the most important job you have in this life, you chose already. Did you realize this when you had all four children? I mean I must say it like it is. If you had planned as you've stated yourself, that you wanted to join the Military, should you have had 4 children only to leave them? Selah

I am torn in my thoughts, a conflicting mess and always have been. I can only ttell you from experience. If you join the Military, leaving your babies with a man who stumbles because of his PTSD, you must be held accountable for this. PTSD is very real. It is a real situation. I speak on this only from experience. I can not help when I get these panic attacks, they come on when I least expect it and I'm ready to fight.

My suggestion, before you do anything else is to research PTSD, so you may make an educated decision. Those that do not suffer from the symptoms often do not have Empathy, when it comes to really understanding the entirety, the very real feelings this disorder brings about, upon the person who is afflicted with it. While you may have some compassion for your husbands disorder, you obviously do not have empathy and yes, there is a difference between empathy and compassion. See, with empathy you would be able to understand the real feelings. You lived the feeling, you know the panic when you hear a sudden loud noise and you are in combat stance, like it or not.With compassion you simply think to yourself, "Well, his disorder is not nice," but you actually can't put yourself in his shoes. It's like a man knows you are in pain when you've gone in to labor but he'll never ever understand how truly painful it is. He might have compassion but he can never have empathy.

Ask yourself if you will really only be defined as a person if you join the Service. Believe me, I do have empathy for you, in this regard. No one wants to grow old and think, "Yep, I coulda done this," or have a clear case of the, "I Wish I Had's."

I offer you to look inside yourself and really ask what defines you. I know part of this involves proving to yourself that you can do this. Determination is the one key, self reliance is the other. In the event that you do follow through with this, will it define you? Will it really make you, who you are? I understand all these factors and ask you to look beyond, all the way from point A to point Z. Play the tape all the way to the end and what will be the outcome.

Finally, I will remind you of this and give you food for thought;

I am who I am;

I am who you think I am

I am who I think I am

I am who I really am

Who are you and what defines you? Only you can answer this.

I wish you only the best

I sure hope you'll keep us informed as to your choice. You have a lot to consider.

Keeping It Really Real,

Aunt Babz

National Guard? 1(800)Go-GUARD

Military.com (PTSD)


Anonymous said...

After reading all the comments I failed to see any real emphasis put on the potential harmful effects on the children being raised by a dad with PTSD. I have this condition myself, and I confess that kids stress me out terribly. If I had kids of my own I don't know if I would be able to keep my sanity long enough to raise them into adulthood, much less into adolescence.

The decision to "be more" or to "follow your dream" is an honorable one, especially when it comes to joining the military. But I do believe there is a little selfishness in play here. A mother who is willing to leave her children with a man who has mental issues just so she can "do what she wants" does sound selfish to me. Just my opinion. It sounds like she is ready to "escape" her situation, possibly she is ready to pull her hair out unless she can relieve herself of the burden of taking care of her husband. Damn the torpedos, and by the way, damn the kids, full speed ahead is what I'm hearing.

If escape is what this girl is wanting, I would suggest taking the kids and leaving. This would at least achieve one goal, i.e. relieving herself of a mentally impaired man. As in one of the comments above, basic training will test even the toughest person's constitution. And this woman may not know exactly what she is in for by opting to do this. But at the end of the day I think the children are the ones who will suffer if this woman runs off to the military.

Ask Aunt B said...

Dear Anonymous, I couldn't agree more with you on every point. I thank you for weighing in and welcome your opinion in the future. That's right, tell it like it is!


Aunt Babz