The Happiest and Darkest of Days
By Everleigh R.
Sometimes I feel like the contrast of my life as a spouse and the caregiver of my wounded hero is more than I can bear. I love my husband and that’s what gets me through every day. Truly he is my best friend, the love of my life, the father to our daughter, and the sweetest person I have ever met. But the yang to his yin is the complete and polar opposite, I am also married to a man with severe PTSD and Depression.
Growing up with an alcoholic parent I learned to navigate the uncertainty of days with my mother. Was I going to get the mom I loved who was my best friend or a much scarier and unpredictable person that had become a shell of the woman I knew? In some ways, when my husband’s PTSD rears its ugly head it feels very similar to the way I felt dealing with my mother’s disease but in other ways, it is so incredibly different.
The Happiest Days
It’s a rainy cold spring day in Colorado, I can’t help but think snow is on its way. Like every morning I wait to hear from my husband that he is awake (sometimes 4 hours after our toddler and I have started our day) he sends me a quick text and says, “Hey babe will you and our girl come up here and snuggle me.” My reply is, “of course honey, we will be right up!” I breathe a sigh of relief knowing it is going to be a good day and for that I am thankful.
The little one and I join daddy and read, wrestle, and snuggle for an hour and just enjoy this feeling that life is perfect. We then go downstairs and I make breakfast, of course for us girls it’s more like lunch. My husband talks about what we need to get done for the day and is excited to tackle a project because he feels like he could conquer the world. I smile because all I want is to see these two happy, my cup runneth over.
It’s days like this, however, few and far between that keep me going that remind me who I fell in love with and that drives me to be a stronger person than I ever knew was possible. I don’t spend the day thinking about what the tomorrow morning’s wake up text will read I just enjoy every minute because sometimes we don’t even get a whole day. Everything can change in an instant much like the unpredictability of the Colorado weather.
The Darkest Days
I wake up this morning to a bright light coming through my window, and I notice a huge void in the air, the cool crispness of it is gone. Yesterday winter and today summer wow what a change. My little girl is crying from her crib and I quickly realize I didn’t wake up on my own but my mom brain subconsciously knew she was up and ready for me, the first of the day’s demands. I walk into her room and she smiles when she sees me this is my life’s greatest predictable moment and I am so thankful for it.
We watch cartoons, eat a breakfast snack, and mommy drinks coffee…lots of coffee. I am beginning to think I will run out of coffee beans when I get the morning text from my husband. “Hey, babe. Is my appointment at 10? I’m sick now btw. Yes, it’s at 10 so I have 15 minutes to get ready”
I hold my breath scared to respond or move forward in this day knowing that I will be walking on eggshells and the person I was yesterday can’t exist today because, if she does she will be wounded emotionally by what she will see and hear. The day moves slowly and is filled with a few brief highs and followed by several hard lows for my husband. He tells me that he doesn’t want the breakfast I made him…not eating is not a good sign. I try later to encourage him into doing the things he said he wanted to accomplish that day. “What’s the point,” he says, “it doesn’t make a difference anyways. I don’t even feel like living anymore.” There it is…it hits me like a ton of bricks and slowly I feel my back start to tense up, my breaths shorten and tears fill my eyes. How do I handle this? What do I say? Is he serious this time? Quick, think of something, you can’t say nothing.
Breathe. I know that no matter how heartbreaking it is to watch the person I love to go through this it must be 1,000 times harder to be the one living it. I try my best to navigate the right next steps. We have a plan for when he is down so I start casually suggesting things in the plan. “Hey babe, how about I go drop you off at a movie or Barnes and Noble?” I say praying his answer is an enthusiastic yes. “I don’t know maybe, I really want to see the new Marvel movie,” he replies. I ask him to pick a time and I start to get myself and the baby ready. He comes upstairs from the basement and says he doesn’t want to go anywhere and that he’s just going to lay down. There is likely some small tiff in between there and words exchanged and I feel hopeless and lost. When the depression is controlling him he is morose and has no interest in life and when the PTSD is controlling him he is angry and says hurtful things he doesn’t mean for reasons he can’t understand or explain.
Yesterday he was a loving and encouraging husband and a great father, today our child is annoying him and he doesn’t even know if he wants to be married. This day has been sunny and warm and the people of our mountain city are thrilled at a small sign of summer. Hiking, biking, and playing in parks, everyone seems to be filled with joy today. On the outside, everything looks perfect but on the inside, another battle is being waged, perhaps that is the theme of our life these days. But this battle, we are determined to win. No matter how overwhelming, lonely, and impossible it may seem.
It Won’t Always Be
As a spouse and caregiver this is my life right now…maybe it won’t always be…hopefully it won’t always be. But for more days than I can count, I have been living in a world of highs and lows marked by the happiest and the darkest of days. To know how I feel in these days is scary because I know he feels worse and lives with the guilt of watching his family ride the roller coaster with him and sometimes it feels easier for him to push away than see that pain in our eyes. But he is strong, so incredibly strong, and he is fighting to contain the beast within him that wants to control his life and face the things of his past that do not define him. He is one of our nation’s finest heroes and I will never ever turn my back on him. I will always be wishing for another day waking up and cuddling with the two greatest gifts I have ever been given, my husband and our daughter because, truly that is what life is all about.