I’m starting at the end. Three years down the line from the start of operation self preservation.
PTSD doesn’t only effect one person, it’s like dropping a pebble in a pond, and the ripples spread far and wide. As those closest to the person with this insidious condition we bear the brunt.
I was married for 15 years. It took ten years to discover why he behaved the way he did. Ten years of drinking, ten years of fights, ten years of hiding his behaviour. I’m from a generation before Iraq and Afghanistan. I’m from a generation of the Falklands, Northern Ireland, Kuwait and Bosnia, PTSD was barely even heard of.
I met Him a few days after he returned from his third tour of Bosnia. He was separated from his wife, had a daughter the same age as mine, was utterly charming, handsome and devoted to his wee girl. I fell hook, line and sinker.
Soon we were inseparable. I had noticed the drinking, but it was never a major problem and as the girls were little it didn’t affect them. He really was a great dad and I believe in credit where it’s due. A year later we were married and Just weeks before the wedding he left the Army. He didn’t tell me why, we never talked about it, he wouldn’t.
Life gradually started to change. The drinking became an every day occurrence. He’d head straight to the Pub after work, drink wine at home and made any excuse for a party at the weekend. Asking him not to have a drink became taboo. It enraged him and often ended, let’s say, badly.
This went on, getting more and more difficult for ten years. Several hospital trips when the drink ended in a fit or an accident. I thought I’d covered it up well, but the hospital staff knew and I’d get “the look”. I hid it quite well from my family, We just wouldn’t attend family occasions unless I couldn’t get out of it.
Then one Sunday the wheels came off……..
By Monday evening, he had quit his job taken up residence on the sofa and made a bottle of gin his best friend. I managed to get him to the GP and I heard “the story” for the first time. The event that had happened some ten years or earlier and his reason for why he drank. It was like a revelation! It wasn’t me, it wasn’t him, I could change things, I could help…….. I was going to fix him!
I got the local mental health team involved. Our GP was wonderful. I called Combat Stress and they made an appointment to come and see us. The local branch of the RBL were great. I even had a meeting with our MP! Oh yes, I was a woman on a mission……..
But, there was one BIG problem……. The drink. He wouldn’t stop, he wouldn’t even try to stop, and he wouldn’t listen to all the people who wanted to help.
Six months after his diagnosis he was back in hospital. This was becoming a regular event. He’d drink while I was at work, take a bunch of tablets and call an ambulance. I was told I could take him home. I told them I wouldn’t. I told them I would take his phone, his money and his shoes. I couldn’t take any more. By some miracle the emergency mental health people were in the hospital. They moved mountains that night and I took him directly to a unit where they could help. Over a five week period they dried him out, gave him the support and techniques he need for when he came home. He had follow up meetings all in place and transport laid on. We were going to be ok.
It lasted ten days…………..
He wouldn’t go to meetings, he wouldn’t answer the door to Combat Stress or the social worker he had been assigned. I worked, he drank gin. And so it went on for two years.
At one point he got a job, but he would drive home and fall through the front door, drunk. No matter what I did, shouting, begging the silent treatment nothing worked. He went to a reunion. He slept with someone he’d known when they were young. I found out. If I said I was leaving or wanted out, he would threaten to kill himself. So I didn’t I stayed.
Besides, he was ill, it wasn’t his fault, I would be the worst wife in the world if I abandoned him…. Wouldn’t I?
This was the start of operation self-preservation. It took a year to get away. I had to do it in such a way that he would be taken care of. I had to make sure he was not going to be on the streets. I took on all his debts and put aside all the savings I could. It wasn’t easy.
The turning point was the night he cut his wrists and called the ambulance. Again he didn’t do enough damage to endanger his life, but the chain of events it started were dramatic.
Ambulance, police, chaos……. My wheels came off……….
We found a place for him to go and I funded him with the savings. When he moved to a flat near his brother he had the majority of the furniture from the house. Everything he needed to start again, debt free.
I ended up moving 400 miles away to start again. A big step at 48. Two years on I’ve never been happier.
He still drinks. He still calls. I try to be kind.
The girls are now 26. One is still too angry with him but admits she misses him. The other sees him from time to time, but won’t take her boyfriend of more than a year to meet him.
They have grown into wonderful, warm, intelligent, young women and I’m incredibly proud of them both.
I’m still here waking up every day and being a happy and useful human being in no small part to Garrison Girls. Knowing I wasn’t alone and that someone understood changed the way I thought about myself.