The ‘New Normal’ is a phrase I loathe! When they come back from deployment they will be different, you will be different, the kids will be different… this is your ‘New Normal’. WTF? He came back and we weren't so different than when he left. Sure we were older but it was the same old routine going on. Yes I know we were different but it was subtle. What was not subtle, HE was different! Withdrawn, edgy, emotionally unavailable, unable/unwilling to participate with the family, not sleeping more than 3 hours… he even ate dinner in another room away from us. A trip to the store required lots of planning on my part (knowing exit locations, plotting non-busy hours, etc) and a shit load of coaxing and encouraging him it would be ok to go outside. Once there I felt like I was the recon guy, peering down aisles to see if there was anyone there – 2 or more people on the aisle and he’d FREAK OUT! Night terrors and sleepwalking meant I didn't sleep at all! Driving was a whole other nightmare for me with his constant shouting out to ‘watch that car’, ‘exit now’, ‘speed up faster, faster, FASTER!’ I still have trouble being the passenger when he drives – imagine the Le Mans car races, high speeds and abrupt lane changes all while 8 feet behind the car in front of us.
A year of medication and some crappy therapy did not help much. They verbally gave him ways to cope (once every 2 weeks) but did not take him into the world to actually teach him how to apply these techniques to everyday situations. Of course the family was NOT part of his treatment either, we were left to walk on eggshells and wonder what in the world we were supposed to be doing. The one time I did get to go with him the therapist questioned WHY I needed to know what was going on.
I have since learned how to effectively talk him down from anxiety attacks and to handle his night terrors by ‘pulling rank’ on him. He has learned how to shop in crowded stores without losing his mind and how to talk to Hootie like the 10 y/o boy he is. How to keep in control of his anger when the SOB in front of him truly needs an ass beating (at work and on the road).
So now almost 3 years after his return the biggest thing that triggers his PTSD is fireworks. This one will never go away. While everyone is getting ready for tonight's sparkles and BOOMS we are checking the list of items to keep him from hearing anything.
Ear plugs – CHECK
Headphones – CHECK
Techno Trance music – CHECK
Xbox moved to the most insulated room in the house – CHECK
He will play video games till the wee hours of the morning. I will be awake half the night listening for the BOOMS from the neighborhood jerks.
And just in case he does lose it I have his Battle Buddy's # and his Valium.
This is what I mean when I say ‘Freedom Isn't Free’?