When life gets tough, the tough get tougher, and tougher, and tougher . . .
My mother had this saying; she had lots of sayings. But this one always stuck: You can get used to hanging if you hang long enough.
Maybe it’s true, I never tried it.
What does it mean anyway? Because there are just certain things in life I can’t get used to, no matter how long I hang. No matter how long I beat and bang against it. If it hurts, I want it gone. NOW!
My husband is battling PTSD. He still cries for his shipmates that died in the fire aboard the USS Forestall fifty-six years ago. He still hears the screams and sees the charred bodies that he put in body bags. And he still feels guilty because he survived while so many others died. Survival’s guilt they call it. But they never tell you how to erase it from your mind.
The fresh-out-of-college psychologist Buck saw week after week thought she had it all figured out. Her theory was that if he kept going back through the flames and reliving that hellish day over and over again that he would eventually get used to it. That, poof! The nightmares and anger, rage, and depression would all disappear. But, her hanging theory didn’t work. The noose only tightened tighter around his neck.
Today, five years later, his PTSD has gotten progressively worse. Some days, I don’t even recognize my husband of fifty-one years. He’s a stranger. Mean and argumentative. And I don’t like him; that monster he suddenly turns into.
War breaks out in our house often. A vicious war that neither of us can win. Between my emotional madness and his angry episodes, we attack each other as if fighting a ferocious enemy. It’s like the real us stands outside our bodies, watching and wondering who the heck those two crazy people are!
Maybe this is the part where if we hang long enough we’ll get used to it.
Never! This is the part where we pick ourselves up by the bootstraps and work on fixing it. We’re tired of fighting. We’re tired of hurting each other and crying and begging for each other’s forgiveness. We’re tired of broken promises, of trying so hard and failing over and over again.
Buck’s seeing a psychiatrist, now, and I’m in cognitive therapy to get a grip and a better understanding of this ugly thing inside me called Borderline Personality Disorder.
We will get through this because we love each other. And we talk things out. We bare our souls; those raw, shameful parts of ourselves that we only share with each other.
Yes, it hurts, and we’ve been going through this for too long. And what makes it worse for Buck is that for years he blocked out the pain in his work and family and church and fishing and playing ball. He was young and strong and healthy. And now, he’s not. Now, he’s retired with mental and health issues that require lots of weekly visits to the VA.
Our world as we knew it has been turned upside down. Maybe this is all part of getting old. Maybe my expectations were set too high, and I was foolish for even thinking there is such a thing as the golden years. I don’t know. I just know that we’re going through a rough season right now, and we will have to ride it out. Because, as my mother used to say: This too shall pass.