Today’s post offers my insight on a few questions that my husband, Sam, asked me.
I typically ask Sam questions, but I decided to let him take control of the keys and ask me a question or two.
What was the hardest thing about not knowing about my experience in the military?
Cat: Not knowing what to ask. What might be appropriate, what might not be appropriate…I didn’t want to offend you by seeming like I was nosy or pushy.
After you identified that I was struggling with things how did you cope with it?
Cat: I felt like I needed to educate myself, I was doing research–reading about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for my thesis and there were some similarities between the some of the interviews I read and you. You know, like avoiding crowds, sitting near an exit, being aware of people in your surroundings and how that made you uncomfortable. I realized at some point we were going to have to address some things but didn’t know how to ask or bring them up.
Did you feel like my PTSD and TBI problems would hamper our relationship?
Cat: No, I mean I could tell when things were not right and you were pretty good with masking and avoiding showing me you were struggling. I could tell when you were uncomfortable, and I noticed when we would have to sit near an exit, or you had to sit in a booth or at a table where you could see everything going on around you—I could also tell when people were too much, or crowds bothered you. I never thought that it would be a burden or a problem…mostly I just wanted to know how to help or what I could do to make you comfortable.
Did you ever think that Memphis would replace you?
Cat: No, I know that Memphis can do things for you that I cannot. He can support you and be there for you when you are at work, or if you are in a stressful situation where anxiety is high. He knows how to alert you and help you focus attention on him and not get stressed out. It makes me feel so comfortable knowing he’s with you 24/7. But, I will admit, I do like when he and I get to hang out too, haha.
Once you found out about some of my deep dark problems from war, did this change your perception of what a Veteran can go through in war?
Cat: Yes and no. I know that a person can enter the military and leave a different person. I read a lot of material for my thesis that helped me understand situations in war, and some of those were similar to what you shared. I always wondered, and then when you felt comfortable, I learned. I think being patient helps. Did that make me think any less of you? No. I know you had training and you were faced with life and death situations that required little to no thinking at the time…does that make sense? Split second decisions. Having a little background into what you told and what I read helped. Had I not had any of that knowledge it would have changed my perception. But knowing a little bit about the military experience helped me understand it better.
With regard to Memphis and I, what do you hope to see in the future?
Cat: I think one of the things I would like to see in the future is Memphis retired and you being more and more comfortable in daily life. You are much more comfortable than you were, but one day, I would like to see Memphis be a dog, not a working dog.
Did you realize the bond between Veterans was so strong even after they got out of the military?
Cat: Not until I witnessed it first hand. You can read a lot of things about Veterans and watch documentaries or movies on TV, and you don’t realize how close the bond is until you see it first hand. I am a civilian and I’ve never had a bond like that. Even after not talking or seeing one another after months you can pick it up like you never missed a beat.
Do you think it would have been harder or easier to be together while I was deployed all three tours?
Cat: I think it would have been very hard to see you go all three times. What is so unique about you and I is that we were not together during those times. I never saw you leave, I never worried about you when you were gone. I never lived on a base. So, I have nothing to go off of in terms of how that would make me feel. I know I would have missed you like crazy and probably sent a lot of mail! Going through the retirement phase with you was completely different than while you were in. Do I think that being together during that time would have helped with knowing about what you go through now, yes!
What is your advice for spouses of Veterans, that are struggling, that works for you?
Cat: I think there has to be communication because if you cannot talk to one another then certain emotions will build and will eventually lead to something like an argument or outburst and possibly you say things you don’t mean. It may be baby steps at first (like trying to figure out what to say or how to act), but you have to be willing to talk to talk to one another. Reaching out to other military spouses to talk to them to learn about their experiences is very helpful. Even just reading or Googling…that can help too. If you aren’t sure what to ask or where to start, maybe even something like this blog could help.
And there you have it…Sam took some time to talk with me about our life together. Each Veteran and spouse have a totally different experience. Every situation is going to be different, but our hope is that you might be able to understand what our life is like. Maybe it is similar to yours, or someone you know. Don’t be afraid to talk to one another. Being patient, offering a listening ear, and remembering that communication is important can help any relationship…but those three small gestures could mean the world to a Veteran and their spouse.
Talk about a throwback, Sam and I went on our “first date” to see Jake Owen in concert at the Show Me Center in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. I had no idea that the crowd and people were a little bit of an issue for him.