I met my husband on New Year’s Eve 2000. We fell in love immediately. 9 months later we married and already had a baby on the way. It shouldn’t have worked for a number of reasons, but we had the most amazing, fairy-tale marriage. We adored each other and our two wonderful children only added to the perfection of our lives.
In October 2009 my husband went off for his first operational tour of Afghanistan. I held my breath from the moment he left and dared to hope for his safe return. The next may, I stood on the cold streets cheering at his home coming parade. I clapped with pride at the medals parade. My children were featured on a TV news bulletin wearing their ‘My Dads a Hero’ T-shirts. The public watched and shared those proud moments with me. Our perfect lives seemed to be back on track.
But there was no more fairy-tale. I sent away a gentle, amazing man, who was the love of my life and I was sent back a monster.
What followed was 18 months of hell; 18 months of mental, emotional and physical abuse at his hands. The strong, independent woman I had always been was destroyed and broken in every way. When the abuse turned towards my children, I realized I had the courage to walk away.
Only after hearing of my decision, did he finally open up. He had an emotional breakdown and finally told us the horrors he had been experiencing as a result of his tour in Afghanistan. He had nightmares, day mares, hallucinations, voices, anger, suicidal thoughts, guilt, hatred…. For him the only way to fight his demons and keep us safe was to push us away, to protect us from the monster he knew he had become.
It was only then that I realized he was suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). My lovely husband had been injured, but I hadn’t seen it. I begged him to get help, but he wouldn’t. His worst fear was to be considered weak by the military if he owned up.
I cried out the military for help, but all they could offer was advice on how to get a divorce. So I went against his wishes and told his family, but they called me a liar and told me he just didn’t want me anymore. My family were supportive, but ultimately could do nothing. I was alone, fighting a battle I could not win.
I began researching PTSD. Only when I started to understand the disorder could I start to make sense of it all. I knew the man I loved was still in there and I fought long and hard for him and to keep our family together. Ultimately I had to let him go and we divorced.
The man I loved died in Afghanistan. It would have been so much easier had he been killed by an IED or sniper’s bullet. The emotions I would have faced would have been far less than the living nightmare I endured for 18 months. I would have been left with my happy memories of my husband, but instead I have only memories of tears, fear, and abuse.
I wanted a way to share my story – to help others suffering from the disorder to realize the pain they inflict on their loved ones and prompt them to seek help. I wanted to help others going through what I did to realize that PTSD is no excuse for domestic violence, and to find the strength to let go. But most importantly, for my children, I wanted a record of the wonderful daddy he once was and not the monster he became that they now only remember. So I wrote my story and called it Stolen Memories – just as my memories of my soul mate and love of my life were stolen. My children’s memories of their hero were stolen.
My story is one of overcoming abuse. Of ultimately taking back control of my life and fighting my way back to normality. It’s the story of a mother fighting to keep her children safe. It is one of courage, bravery and self-respect and not one of letting my love for a man overpower my sense of self-worth. To this day I remain extremely proud to have been part of the military family, but I paid a heavy price for Afghanistan and the lack of support I received on my husband’s return.
Writing my book was the best therapy I could have had. Though I shed many tears, through writing my story I was able to reclaim my happy memories. I am now able to look back on the happy times with a smile on my face. No longer do I have tears in my eyes.
My life is now back on track.
3 comments to "Stolen Memories"