I couldn’t tell you what it meant, or exactly what it was. Sometimes the differences were so slight that I thought I was imagining things or overreacting. But something wasn’t right.
I remember telling the doctors something is not right. He’s just not right. This is not the man I know.
Dr. K, the psychiatrist told us that the myriad symptoms were a combination of PTSD, depression, and anxiety coupled with the adjustment to coming home following a period of severe illness and isolation in addition to the experiences in a war zone.
I came home and Googled everything the doctors said. Although I had heard about PTSD, I did not know anything about it. And despite the verbal information presented by Dr. K, the VA did not provide us with any information. I would have loved a handout, a factsheet, something! But I did my own research and found the information I needed.
It was a scary and confusing time for all of us. I didn’t understand why Sean was behaving the way he was, the kids didn’t understand the changes in dad, and Sean himself didn’t know what was going on with his body (the abdominal pain and headaches persisted) and with his mind. Imagine someone you love coming into the house and looking just the same as you remember, but acting completely out of character. Looking back, we needed MUCH more support and training than we were given. We did not have the resources available to adequately deal with the issues at home and help us all heal as a family. Instead, we “made do” and “got by” by learning to either adapt our behavior to ease Sean’s discomfort, forcing him into unpleasant situations, or avoiding things altogether. Our home was full of arguing, hurt feelings, and lonliness as we all tried to separate ourselves from the problems surrounding us.
One of the first things I noticed was his agitation. Sean was always upset about something. The kids were loud, the dog wanted out, someone ate the last of the bread. He was not just irritated, but would rant and rave about the smallest things. Other times he would agree to do errands or pick up the kids, but when the time came to do so he would explode about the inconvenience and my expectations of him.
Watching Sean struggle with chronic pain, excessive need for sleep, gave me great concern about his job as a lieutenant at the fire department. On his days off he would sleep all day, eat some supper and sleep all night. He was very run down and did not have energy for daily tasks he used to do. When he failed his paramedic test (a job he had had for almost 15 years, and class he was certified to teach) I knew the end of his career was coming. He was not able to keep up or think quickly enough to do his job.