Before I start, I want to make sure you know, I AM NOT an Army Wife. When I met my husband he was almost done with his military career. I never had to know what it’s like to send him overseas and I didn’t know who he was before he became a War Veteran. I AM a wife of a military veteran who did two tours as a gunner in the United States Army and suffers from PTSD. While this blog isn’t specifically going to be about being a PTSD family, from time to time I’ll be sharing the stories of our struggles, our achievements and how certain things, like a movie, affected our life.
Not being anxious to shed tears with strangers, I had been trying to avoid seeing the movie in public. On a side note, that thought has me wondering why anyone would want to see “50 Shades of Grey” surrounded by a bunch of people you don’t know, but that’s a whole different post. So, I was going to be spending the day with my oldest son, C. It’s not often we get a full day to ourselves as he is my Step-Son and he spends weekends at his mom’s house. I was talking to my husband what he thought C would want to do and he asked me if I’d take him to see “American Sniper.” He’d planned on taking him himself, but given that C is a pretty emotional lid it did seem like a better idea we shared the experience together. I’ll openly admit I often cry during movies. I;d be lying if I pretended to be anything but extremely emotional, yes, I’ve been known to cry during commercials (and even once during a football game. but again. that’s another post. Anyways, normally if I cry in a theater I’m left thinking everyone who could hear me is like, “someone tell this girls it’s just a movie.” But, this wasn’t just a movie. There was something quite magical about being in a room full of strangers, crying because everyone is being touched by something that is in their own way connected to them. Then and there in that room, strangers became family and though none of us spoke to one another, the knowing and compassionate looks shared from others after the movie as my son and I stand hugging and crying said, “it’s OK, this is real and it matters” not, “OK you can stop crying now movies over.”
This isn’t s movie review, but I will say based on my husbands thoughts after he saw the movie and the few stories he has shared with me, this truly was an accurate portrayal of what war is like as well as the emotional struggles afterwards dealing with PTSD and trying to find your place back in the civilian world. As expected, it was a very emotional movie. There were parts that made me smile, parts that made me understand my husband more and of’course parts that made me cry. But, once the sadness went away, a different emotion came, ANGER.
Chris Kyle did four tours in the Iraq War. He fought tirelessly to defend his country, each time escaping death, only to come home and be killed by another veteran. I don’t say this to take away from his death, he died doing something he loved, serving his fellow veterans. What makes me angry is how too often things like this happen, too often our veterans are dying from PTSD and DEATH isn’t supposed to be a symptom of this disease.
Mental health care is a mess in our country and being a veteran doesn’t make you immune. I’m not going to say that the VA does nothing for our soldiers, that’s not true, I know they offer counseling, 24 hour phone support and many other programs, but just like other things you go to the VA for their go to option is a band-aid. For my husband that band-aid for his PTSD is money, pills and talking to someone who will never truly understand what he’s experienced. It’s a start, but it’s not enough. My husband had a friend who was shot during an interaction with the police as a result of his PTSD. We’ve had friends knock on our door in the middle of then night because their suffering and they don’t know where else to go. I’ve spent countless nights comforting my husband as he has nightmares, scared to wake him up yet more afraid to let him continue sleeping. I’ve accepted that there are things we’ll never get to experience as a family, like a Fourth of July fireworks show or a loud, banging on pots and pans New Years Eve celebration. I spend time with God, praying for my husband, asking Him not only to help heal his wounds. As time goes on, he does get better. Just like every other disease, there are good days and bad days, there is progression and regression. Each and every day we are growing together as a PTSD family and learning how to help one another. PTSD is a big problem and I hope movies like “American Sniper” will serve as a view into the disease and help us to stop being afraid of Mental Health.
My heart goes out to those who have lost a loved one to war, PTSD or another mental disease. You are blessed and you are not alone. God Bless you and God Bless our soldiers. To any soldiers reading this, I thank you for your service to our country and my family and I are grateful for all you’ve sacrificed.