Golly, Miss Molly
A blog about a service dog and her veteran with PTSD
(Supporting the veteran and the family caregiver)
As Christmas approaches, my husband and I find tensions between us tighter than usual. I stomp around the house, acting as a child disciplined for peeking in the gift closet. My husband’s reaction resembles a junior higher spending time in detention, growing angrier and angrier. Negotiating our way through the issues we struggle with as a couple, I’ve tried two strategies to see which works to my advantage.
First, I react by feeling slighted, hurt by the man who vowed to love and cherish me. If something does not go my way, I become the martyr. When I have to repeat myself for the twentieth time, I assume he does not want to hear me or he would wear his hearing aids. If he says something hurtful, I know it’s because he wants me to suffer. It’s all about me.
When that strategy doesn’t bring satisfaction, I move to It’s Not My Fault. “It’s not my fault you have PTSD—I didn’t cause it.” This week, I wrote the wrong address on our DMV ownership certificate because he distracted me. Finally, I told him, “It’s not my fault your medication makes you cranky.”
Advice from the Cat and Dog
Failing to succeed with either approach, I look to the animal kingdom for metaphorical advice. I reflect on Moses, my 14-year old cat, who is on his twelfth or so life—quite impressive indeed. “Don’t bother me, I’m napping.” “I’m hungry now. Feed me.” “Isn’t my fur lovely? It would be lovelier if you would brush me.” Okay, so the cat subscribes to the It’s All About Me strategy. That’s no help.
I turn to Miss Molly for inspiration. She models life about as perfectly as any human being. This week, I scolded her for barking at a woman, walking a small dog. Molly’s response? “It’s the mutt’s fault—he barked first.” Then, she ate more of the birds’ food. “Those mean magpies deserved it and those bossy blue jays taunted me into doing it.” And, for the star on the top of the tree–Molly snuck into my sewing room where I wrap Christmas presents. She ate through three plastic bags of chocolate candy and peppermint sticks. Her defense? “You left them on top of the pile of presents (okay, I did, actually). So much for success of the It’s not my fault strategy.
Letting Go of Hurt
Letting go of my personal hurt feelings and working through the pain becomes the only successful strategy. No, I did not cause his PTSD and, no, he did not ask to be sent to Vietnam but both happened, without us doing anything to cause either. So where does that put us? Finding our way back to that first love—the one we felt the day we met. Only two weeks after meeting, he knelt beneath my Christmas tree and proposed marriage. We married on Valentine’s Day sixty days after we met. Harkening back to those days helps bring back the memory of the twinkling lights reflecting in his eyes, as he presented me with an invitation to be in his life forever.
Forever Love With or Without PTSD
I realize the problems we experience are similar to those experienced by all married couples committed to making a life together. While you would think the journey would be easier the longer we are married, it is more difficult because over the years we become more like each other. Consequently, we are wise to each other’s tactics, already know what the other is thinking, and cannot hide our thoughts. This makes it easier to hurt and be hurt by one another. Certainly, the additive of PTSD ratchets up the stakes and increases our vulnerability.
There is no easy way to feel that first love again. What we are finding on this journey; however, is a love deeper than anything we ever imagined. While walking away might be easier, I would lose my best friend and the love of my life. PTSD or not, I want this journey to continue for as long as we live.
Post your Comments:
Do you have an effective strategy for working through issues with your disabled veteran or your spouse? Please comment below.
About the blogger
Dr. Penelope “Penny” Culbreth-Graft is a retired city manager and graduate professor. She lives with her disabled Vietnam Veteran husband, William, and his service dog, Molly, on Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado. She writes, paints, cares for her husband, and spends time with her grandchildren.