As we come to the end of March and Women’s History Month, we have one last posting that recognizes the service and sacrifices of our military spouses.  Today’s guest blog posting is from Meghan, the spouse of a deployed service member who has been diagnosed with PTSD.  She also has her own blog:  http://sedlakwilliamson.blogspot.com/.

 
First Homecoming, Camp Lejeune
“My husband, Staff Sgt Randy Williamson, recently left for his 5th deployment.  Every time he leaves, it is hard.  His diagnosis of PTSD has made each departure a little more difficult, because we just don’t know.”

We don’t know what could potentially trigger his PTSD.  We don’t know when it could happen, or where he will be.”  

“On April 30, 2004, my husband was injured in a suicide car bomb explosion in Fallujah, Iraq.  As a result, he lives every day with shrapnel in his shin, as well as a visible scar on his forehead.  Every day since then has been a struggle- not with the visible injuries- but the invisible injuries.”


“Soon after he was injured, he was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  While it freaked me out a bit, I didn’t really notice anything different about Randy when he returned home in September 2004.”

“It wasn’t until we had successfully made it through three back to back deployments to Iraq, and had accepted non-deployable orders that we had a chance to catch our breath and process what he had been through…. what we both had been through.  We adopted our awesome furbabies- 2 cats and a very spoiled dog, and settled into a normal life.  (At least as normal as the Marine Corps allows!)”
 
 
Randy and Mocha–Obedience School Graduation, 2009
“I don’t think I realized just how broken my husband was as a result of his struggles with PTSD.  On February 27, 2010, Randy took what we call a “leave of absence.”  He walkedout- on our furbabies, on our marriage, on our lives together.  He decided that he just couldn’t handle his life as it was anymore.  A lot of things had happened in a very short period of time.  It would have been a lot for anyone to deal with, let alone someone who had been through everything that Randy had been.”

It took three months for Randy to realize that he needed help for what he was dealing with, and that he couldn’t blame me for the way he was feeling.  He realized that it was ok for him to ask for help, and it was OK for him to talk about his experiences.  He realized that I wasn’t going to judge him, or think less of him because of what he was telling me.  I was- and am- incredibly proud of Randy for admitting that there was something there he needed to deal with, and for taking control and coming face to face with the nightmares and flashbacks he was experiencing.”

“In September of 2010, Randy received orders to a unit that would be deploying to Afghanistan in March of the following year.  Panic immediately set in- mostly for me.  On top of the usual nervousness and fear that comes along with a combat deployment, this one would be the first since his “leave of absence.”  He deployed on February 25, 2011.”

Deployment Day #4, Camp Lejeune, NC
 
That deployment day was by far the hardest- mostly because I was back to not knowing.  Would he be ok? What would happen if his PTSD did surface again? How would he deal with that? As a squad leader, would he even be willing to ask for help?? Would he be able to call me if he needed to? It was incredibly difficult to let go of his hand that day as he got on the bus- I was terrified, and I think a part of him was too, but we both did our best to put on a brave face and smile and wave as the buses drove off.”
“I knew that I just needed to trust him- that he would know what he needed to do.  Two weeks later, I got my first phone call.  Randy sounded great- he had gone out on his first combat patrol the day before, and he said he felt really good about it.  He felt confident, and didn’t have any problems at all.  I was so relieved, I immediately broke down crying.  It was such a relief to hear him sounding like himself, and to know that he was in control.” 

Randy returned safely from that deployment in September of 2011.  We have not dealt with any flashbacks, nightmares, or sleepless nights in quite some time.  I am constantly reminding him that I am always there for him, and will always listen to whatever he wants to talk to me about.  We have become much better at communicating, and I am constantly checking in with him to see if there is anything he wants to talk about.  We have learned that it is much easier for him to talk to me when the lights are out, so we can’t actually see each other’s faces. ” 

“We have not allowed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to break us.  We have only grown stronger because of it, and I continue to be incredibly proud of Randy as he advocates for himself and his fellow Marines.  He speaks out against the stigma associated with PTSD, and makes sure that his Marines know it is OK to ask for help.  He wants them to know that asking for help is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of incredible strength.”