As the wife of Naval Special Forces Operator, my life has been anything but ordinary. Looking back on my husband's 21 years of service, we have had some amazing adventures, but we have also had our fair share of hardships. Between training missions, workups, and deployments, there was this constant cycle of living as a family unit to being a single mom. With his departures, I always felt like I had to "be strong" for my kids. I'd spend the next days, weeks, months being the head of the household, sole care giver, and solo decision maker in the house as comms were often very limited when my husband was away, all while running my own business so I could stay at home with the kids. This was not only a physically draining burden at times, but it was emotionally taxing and lonely. When my husband would return, we would have to relearn to work as a partnership again, which is a lot more challenging than it sounds. With each deployment cycle, I put my needs further and further down the list so I could be everything I needed to everyone else: a nurturing mom, a devoted wife, and dedicated business owner.
Each deployment took its toll on my husband physically and mentally, which in turn, took its toll on our marriage and on me. I started to close myself off emotionally because it was easier than dealing with the constant emotional roller coaster. I no longer found joy in the things I once loved. I treaded on the path of least resistance to avoid conflict. Suddenly, my husband and I found ourselves almost strangers to one another.
In December of 2018, my husband went to NICoE, where he was diagnosed with, among many physical injuries, multiple TBIs and PTSD. Over the next 4 weeks, he was immersed into a variety of cognitive therapies, including various creative art therapies. With each passing week, I could see amazing changes in my husband. During the last week of the program, spouses are invited to come be part of the experience/program. We were excited and encouraged by the healing the program has started with my husband and thought this was going to be an opportunity for us to reconnect and start to heal our relationship. We were given the opportunity to have one counseling session together. I finally found the strength to be vulnerable and honest, but dialogue I tried to start with my husband was halted. I was told that was not the purpose of this session, that I was invited to attend so I could understand my husband's struggles. What this did to my psyche was detrimental... putting myself last and my lack of self-worth was validated.
Shortly after NICoE, my husband was accepted into Rob Cosman's Purple Heart Project (PHP). Talk about a left changing experience! He came home with a new found peace and zest for life that I had not seen in a long time. While my husband continued to improve every day, I started to slip into a deep depression. To compound everything I was going though, COVID-19 came along and shut down the word, my daughter moved to the other side of the country, and I was staring down the barrel of my husband's retirement and son's graduation. I had such a dark sense of despair looming over me everything felt hopeless. I tried to find a therapist to help me work through everything I was going through, but due to COVID regulations and a spiked increase in patients, it was impossible to find someone taking on new patients. I couldn't even admit myself into an in-patient clinic because I wasn't suicidal even though I was drowning all the same. Throughout this entire ordeal, my husband was a pillar of strength. He was there to support, encourage, and love me when I wasn't capable to. He fought for me and he fought for our marriage, neither would have been possible prior to NICoE and the PHP. He encouraged me to make time for myself, to find something I enjoyed doing, and not give up on myself.
I eventually got in with a therapist and psychologist. One of the things my therapist suggested was to get back to something I used to love doing, even if I didn't enjoy it anymore. That took me back to my sewing machine. Much like my husband found healing in a chisel and piece of wood, the more time I invested behind the sewing machine, the more I started to remember how much I used to enjoy it. With my continued therapy, both counseling and sewing, I started to recognize myself again. My husband and I were able to start dialogues that lead to healing I never thought possible. While our relationship is much stronger because of the storm we weathered, I cannot say we would have come out the other side without each of us finding peace in our respective creative arts.
I am eternally grateful for the NICoE and the PHP because they brought my husband back after suffering with PTSD for so long. It is my dream that The Yellow Ribbon Connection can fill the void of programs available to spouses of combat wounded vets suffering with the wounds of war only they can understand.
If you feel compelled to help The Yellow Ribbon Connection come to fruition, please consider making a donation. All funds received will used to start and support The Yellow Ribbon Connection's mission. At this time, we are in the process of securing a space to run the program, purchasing equipment and supplies to teach a variety of creative arts, and travel arrangements/accommodations for our participants.
Thank you for support!