Wife of A Wounded Warrior Lights her Way Through the Darkness

Wounded Warrior WifeBrain Injury Blog by Jessica Montgomery

June 26, 2012

Wife of A Wounded Warrior Lights her Way through the Darkness

Living with TBI and PTSD as wounds of war come home

I met Jessica last winter when she attended Hope for the Home Front’s weekend retreat for wives of wounded warriors in El Paso, Texas. When she returned to another retreat at Hilton Head, she gave what has become known as her “Flashlight Speech” to a round of cheers and applause by another group of wives. I asked her if she would share this for our blog.

She calls her first talk “The Flashlight Speech” because it speaks to how she has “come out” as the wife of soldier with PTSD. She admits that…”I lived in relative anonymity regarding my husband’s invisible wounds. I put on the fake smile and “everything is just fine” attitude. Being that we live in an area that is hundreds of miles away from a military installation, how could anyone in this sleepy little town understand what we have gone through and what we continue to go through? It was incredibly lonely.”

She says she learned more about PTSD and TBI (traumatic brain injury) over the weekend than she had found in the last five years combined. After bottling up everything up for so long, she was finally in a safe place with people who understood. I remember that on the last day, she was so emotional that it was hard for her to speak as she said goodbye.  Jessica says that the two most life-changing things she learned were:

“First, even though it feels like it sometimes, I am NOT crazy! What I was feeling and experiencing was normal! How freaking liberating! Second, and most importantly…I AM NOT ALONE. A miserable, damning emotion I had felt for years, GONE. Instead of feeling like I have no one to vent to or confide in because they don’t understand, I now have a group of sisters who are there to say, “been there, done that”, give some really helpful advice, or just listen and remind me that no matter how impossible it seems, I am not alone.

Here is Jessica’s flashlight story in her own words.

When my husband’s PTSD started bubbling to the surface even before his second deployment, it was like the world slowly went dark. We didn’t notice it much at first, or maybe we just chose to ignore it. We probably wouldn’t have accepted help if offered and played it off as, “No, we’re okay.  We got this!” There were, of course, all of the Army literature and pamphlets about PTSD, but they were vague. Give your husband room. Don’t expect him to go back to normal right away. Blah blah blah. Whatever. That wasn’t us. We weren’t like your typical military couple. There would be a transitional period, but then we would go back to the way we were before. We marched past these warning signs, completely unaware what was around the corner.

I can’t remember exactly when I realized it, but it was after he was out of the Army. I looked up one day and realized the lights were completely out. No problem, I thought. We can do this. I sought help and answers from the sources we were told were there to help us. Dead ends. Closed doors.  Booby traps, even. We argued about where to go next, deciding we would each seek our own answers. Now I felt even more alone and frightened. Not only was I lost, I had lost sight of my husband as well.

In the darkness, someone grabbed my hand. They led me to a place with these women who were there to help lost wives like me. “We can’t magically make the lights come on, but we can give you tools to help you find your way,” they said. They were handing out flashlights.

I was in shock. Why didn’t I find these ladies sooner? Maybe it’s because I would have waved them off, saying, “Nope, I’m good.” But by God, now I had a flashlight, and I was going to use it!

I first sought out my husband. I shared my flashlight with him, and together we began to get back on track. I was giddy with excitement! I wanted to go find other lost wives! I wanted to grab them and say, “Did you know they have FLASHLIGHTS over there?!  Here, let me show you!”

Now the flashlight is not a magic cure-all. It is up to me to USE it and to recharge the batteries (by taking care of myself) so I could press on.

It is my purpose now to pass out flashlights to all I meet.

And I told the ladies at the second retreat, you are being armed with flashlights. Seek out others who are lost. Share your story. Help them find their own flashlight so we can help each other. Let what you learn at this retreat start your own healing and, in the process, help others find theirs.

You can read more by Jessica on her blog at http://wifeofaptsdcombatmedic.blogspot.com/

4 responses to “Wife of A Wounded Warrior Lights her Way Through the Darkness”

  1. Shelly Unger-Padgett says:

    Thank you, I just recently have found my flashlight or faint glimmer of light at the end of a very long and scary tunnel….
    keep handing out those flashlights, in Service they are told no Man left behind.
    for us Caregivers, no one will be left in the darkness, we all need to be and help others stay in the light

  2. Cyndi says:

    I am in need of a flashlight! 🙂

  3. Janet Cromer says:

    Hi Jessica,
    Thank you for being such a bright light in the darkness of TBI and PTSD! You are courageous and terrific!

  4. Jessica, thanks for sharing your story of “enlightenment.” Your joy at finding some light in the darkness brought tears to my eyes and a smile of “you go, girl!” to my face.

    And Marilyn, thank you for bringing Jessica to my attention.

    Cheers,
    Barbara

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